Reconstruction in the South: A Farmer’s Diary

May, 1870
Dear Diary:

I can’t believe that I survived the fall of Atlanta just to have to live through reconstruction.

I understand that the North is trying to help rebuild our towns and way of life, but no one is really benefiting from this!  It’s so frustrating, especially since those Northerners don’t have it nearly as awful as we do down here.  My farm has gone to ruin, and I don’t even have the slaves to help me restore it.  What kind of a man am I without slaves?  Before that awful war, the men without slaves were the low class, the poor men.  Now, I am just like them! No slaves, no usable land!  At this rate, I may as well enter a sharecropping contract!

I guess I just don’t understand why we had to free them.  Honestly, it’s not like they’re getting better treatment now!  Sure, there was that government-funded program to teach them to read, but other than that?  They can’t live off the low wages they get, and it’s not as if they can jump their labor contract in search of better work without getting fined.  Some people won’t even let the freedmen rent land.  Was fighting that war even worth it if the freed slaves were just going to get treated like this?

Don’t even get me started on all the violence, diary.  There’s a group now, called the Ku Klux Klan.  They believe in white supremacy, and started attacking freedmen.  They threaten freedmen not to vote and drag people out of their homes to whip them.  Even politicians aren’t safe from their brutality. I mean, I still wish I had my slaves back, but this is horrific.

If that war had never happened, none of this would be happening right now.  I just wish things were back to the way they were before, without this violence and conflict.  The South was functioning fine, and the North wasn’t suffering from it either.  Wouldn’t it have been easier to just let us keep our slaves?

Thanks for listening, diary.

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