Reconstruction was a period of time immediately following the Civil War marked by heightened racial tensions and violence, rapid advancements in civil rights, and the readmission process of Confederate states to the Union. Reconstruction is perhaps best known for the three "Reconstruction Amendments" to the United States Constitution (the 13th, 14th, and 15th) which abolished slavery in the United States; ensured equal protection under the law, due process, and natural-born citizenship; and equal voting rights.
Reconstruction in Virginia formally ended on January 26, 1870, when the Union troops were ordered to leave Virginia, which was known as the "First Military District" during Union occupation after the defeat of the Confederacy. Reconstruction in the United States formally ended in 1877, although the social and legal trends from that time continued for several decades.
When southern legislatures refused to ratify the 14th Amendment, which gave citizenship to African Americans, Congress passed Reconstruction acts in 1867 that reduced the former Confederate states to conquered provinces.
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Constitutional Convention of 1867-68
Former Confederate states were required to “reconstruct” their state governments before they could be readmitted to the Union. After establishing military occupation, each state was to assemble a convention that would draft a new constitution and appoint a legislature. Virginia selected delegates in the fall of 1867, began the convention in December of that year, and voted on the new constitution on April 17, 1868.
James T. S. Taylor was chosen to represent Albemarle at the constitutional convention as a Republican, despite the opposition by his father, Fairfax Taylor. He was the first Black men to represent the area on the state level. At the Convention, he sat on the Committees on the Basis of Representation and Apportionment and on Prisons and the Prevention and Punishment of Crime.
The Readjuster Party is known for being the shortest-lived and most radical reforming political party in Virginia’s history. It formed in the wake of the Virginia Debt Controversy. The Controversy essentially boils down to the matter of repaying debts Virginia accrued via infrastructure spending prior to the Civil War. The Readjusters worried that in an effort to repay the debt and interest as quickly as possible, the (wealthier, white) conservative representatives would slash state programs such as public schools. The Readjusters wanted to repudiate the state debt, abolish the poll tax, extensively invest in public education-- doubling the number of schools, teachers, and students-- and create Virginia State University to serve African-American students.
The Readjuster Party was a biracial coalition that frequently caucused with the Republicans. James T. S. Taylor became a Readjuster when the party was formed. After their sweeping success between 1880 and 1882, the conservative party began campaigning on racist policies and rhetoric, seeing race as the only thing that could supersede the desire for widespread social programs and overcoming class issues on the ballot.
The original Jefferson School was established shortly after the end of the Civil War with aid from the Freedmen's Bureau and the Freedman's Aid Society. Anna Gardner was sent to establish the school. Isabella Gibbons was in the first graduating class of the teaching academy Gardner established, and taught with Gardner immediately after graduating. Philena Carkin, Paul Lewis, and Margaret Lewis were also known teachers at the school, which was originally housed in the "Mudwall" Delevan building.
- Web. 1861-1876: Reconstruction, Website, Virginia Museum of History and Culture, 2020, retrieved July 8, 2021.
- Web. James T. S. Taylor, Christopher Taylor, Web Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Virginia: Virginia Humanities, February 12, 2020, retrieved July 8, 2021.
- Web. The Virginia Debt Controversy, Tarter, Brent, Web Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Virginia; Virginia Humanities, December 14, 2020, retrieved July 20, 2021.
- Web. Readjuster Party, The, Tarter, Brent, Website, Encyclopedia Virginia: Virginia Humanities, December 14, 2020, retrieved July 8, 2021.
- Web. Virginia Readjuster Party sweeps to victory in 1879 elections, History Engine, Website, University of Richmond, 2019, retrieved July 8, 2021.
- Web. [ Disturber of Tradition: A Portrait of Anna Gardner], White, Barbara Ann, Book, Nantucket Historical Association, 2017