Reconstruction was an era of unprecedented political conflict and of far-reaching changes in the nature of American government.
At the national level, new laws and constitutional amendments permanently altered the federal system and the definition of citizenship.
In the South, a politically mobilized black community joined with white allies to bring the Republican party to power, while excluding those accustomed to ruling the region.
The national debate over Reconstruction centered on three questions:
As a result, Congress overturned Johnson's program.
Between 1866 and 1869, Congress enacted new laws and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution, guaranteeing blacks' civil rights and giving black men the right to vote.
These measures for the first time enshrined in American law the principle that the rights of citizens could not be abridged because of race. And they led directly to the creation of new governments in the South elected by blacks as well as white - America's first experiment in interracial democracy.