Reconstruction (1866-1877)

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Destrehan Slave Quarters
The former slave quarters of Destrehan Plantation became freed Negroes’ homes after the Civil War.

The period from 1865 to 1877 has been called the “Reconstruction Period.” This term implies that building and reconstructing should have taken place. However, little of that occurred or was even addressed by the federal government. In reality, it marked a period of non-violent military occupation. Slaves were freed, the economy was in chaos, and poverty was widespread. Many of the slaves chose to remain on the plantations, residing in the same living quarters working for the owners. Wages were paid in the form of tokens, which could be used only at the plantation store. Levees were in very poor condition and laborers were scarce to perform necessary reinforcements and repairs. Great numbers of “carpetbaggers” flocked to the plantations. In order to move forward, it was necessary to restore local government, reestablish the devastated local economy, and develop industries, which would provide basic necessities and define a place in society for the newly freed Negro. There was much to be done before Louisiana and the German Coast would be readmitted to the United States. The Louisiana legislators ratified the Fourteenth Amendment on July 9, 1868, and Louisiana was once again a part of the United States.

“Carpetbaggers—this term applied to political opportunists in power in the South during the Reconstruction following the Civil War. Using the Negro vote unscrupulously, these men gained control of the local governments and grew rich through graft. Mostly Northerners, they were called “carpetbaggers” because it was said their only possessions on arrival were carried in their carpetbags.”