This Day in History

March 2, 1867: Congress Passes First of Four Reconstruction Acts

Time Periods: 1865
Themes: Voting Rights, Reconstruction, Racism & Racial Identity

On March 2, 1867, Congress overrode President Andrew Johnson’s veto and passed the first of four statutes known as the Reconstruction Acts. These laws divided the former Confederate states (with the exception of Tennessee) into five military districts and outlined the process of readmission to the Union.

In order to be readmitted to the Union, each state was required to draft a new constitution to be approved by Congress, to ratify the 14th Amendment, and to grant suffrage to African American men. According to the Library of Congress:

The Reconstruction Acts established military rule over Southern states until new governments could be formed. They also limited some former Confederate officials’ and military officers’ rights to vote and to run for public office. (However, the latter provisions were only temporary and soon rescinded for almost all of those affected by them.) Meanwhile, the Reconstruction acts gave [formerly enslaved men] the right to vote and hold public office.

The former Confederate states began meeting these demands the next year, with Arkansas being the first to do so on June 22, 1868.

Learn more in the Zinn Education Project national report, “Erasing the Black Freedom Struggle: How State Standards Fail to Teach the Truth About Reconstruction,” and find teaching resources on Reconstruction below.