1865 - Johnson moves to “Reconstruct” the South on his own initiative. He prefers to call the process "restoration", emphasizing his leniency towards the rebelling Southern states. Former Confederate military leaders and patricians with taxable property over $20,000 are disenfranchised until further notice; only 10% of enfranchised Southern population needs to take an oath of loyalty before readmission.
1865 - Southern states begin to pass "Black Codes” these laws subject former slaves to a variety of restrictions on their freedom: they forbid blacks to testify against whites; they establish vagrancy and apprenticeship laws; blacks cannot serve on juries, bear arms, or hold large meetings.
1865 - The Thirty-ninth Congress convenes. It is the first session since Lincoln’s death. All Confederates states, with the exception of Mississippi have formally accepted presidential requirements for readmission to the Union and representation in Congress. Led by radical Thaddeus Stevens, the House simply omits the southerners from roll call, effectively denying them admittance. It then proceeds to discuss punishment for the rebellious South, which according to Radical Republican Charles Sumner has committed "state suicide".
1865 - The Ku Klux Klan is formed in Tennessee. It is one of the many secret societies set up to terrorize blacks. Its methods become ever more vicious as whites become more certain that their old way of life is being threatened.
1865 – 13th Amendment ratified.
1866 - Johnson vetoes Freedmen’s Bureau bill and Civil Rights Act of 1866; a modified version of the Freedmen’s Bureau bill later passes, and Congress overrides Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights Act.
1866 - 14th Amendment passed by Congress grants full citizenship to blacks, gives the Federal government the responsibility to protect equal rights under the law to all American citizens.
1866 - Bloody race riots erupt in Memphis and New Orleans.
1866 - In Congressional elections of 1866, Republicans increase their majority in Congress, forming solid anti-Johnson majorities in both houses.
1866 - Military tribunals when applied to civilians while the court system still functions is unconstitutional - Ex Parte Milligan
1867 - First Reconstruction Act passes over Johnson’s veto. Temporarily places the South under military rule; states may be readmitted if their new state constitutions provide for black suffrage.
1867 - John Surratt arrested, brought to America, and tried as a Lincoln assassination conspirator. The trial resulted in a hung jury. Subsequent refiling contained several errors and all charges were dismissed by the court.
1868 - Impeachment Crisis. Congress impeaches Johnson but he avoids conviction by one vote.
1868 - Georgia expels blacks from its legislature. Military rule is instantly re-imposed on the state and earlier readmission to representation in Congress is revoked. Ratification of the 14th Amendment is now made obligatory before representation in Congress will be allowed.
1868 - 14th Amendment ratified.
November 1868 - Grant is elected President.
1869 - 15th Amendment passed by Congress prohibits any state from denying a citizen the right to vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
1869 - The first rail line to cross the continent is completed. The Union Pacific is joined with the Central Pacific; the news is flashed by telegraph and the nation celebrates from coast to coast. This railroad network will be the single most influential factor in the emergence of a new industrial age.
1870 - 1875
1870 - 15th Amendment ratified.
1870 - Force Acts (KKK Acts) passed by Congress seek to enforce 15th Amendment by giving Federal protection for black suffrage, and authorize the use of Federal troops against the KKK. These acts are declared unconstitutional in Cruikshank v. U.S. in the 1880s.
November 1872 - Grant wins a second term as President, defeating Horace Greeley.
1873 - Panic of 1873 plunges the nation into a depression.
1874 - Grant uses force for the last time to subvert the White League’s attempt to overthrow a Republican government accused of stealing an election.
1875 - "Whiskey ring" scandal exposed.
1875 - Civil Rights Act of 1875 states that no citizen can be denied the equal use of public facilities such as inns, restaurants, etc. on the basis of color.
1876 - 1898
1876-77 - Disputed election between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden resolved in favor of Republican Hayes.
1877 - Compromise of 1877 results in end to military intervention in the South and the fall of the last radical governments; restores "home rule" in the South
1883 - Civil Rights Cases strike down the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Congress may not legislate on civil rights unless a state passes a discriminatory law; Court declares the 14th Amendment silent on racial discrimination by private citizens.
1896 - Plessy v. Ferguson upholds Louisiana statute requiring "separate but equal" accommodations on railroads. Court declares that segregation is not necessarily discrimination. Justice Harlan’s dissent argues that segregation is inherently discrimination; this argument will be used to support the majority opinion in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
1898 - Williams v. Mississippi upholds a state law requiring a literacy test to qualify for voting.