According to Zinn, reconstruction was the efforts by the federal government to please the southern people so that they could join the states to become a big nation. The federal government wanted to ensure that the southern states were under their governance. At the same time, they wanted to ensure that they avoided any wars that could results. They wanted to ensure that the black Americans could not riot again but at the same time, they wanted then to be under their control.
According to Zinn, the reconstruction efforts aimed at ensuring that a united nation was created that would be under one government. At the same time, they wanted to ensure that the southern states and people who lived in this region remained respected and powerful as compared to the people who lived in the northern states who were mainly black Americans.
Zinn argues that reconstruction led to a situation whereby the black Americans became free people and had the right to vote. However, they remained less powerful as compared to the whites who lived in the southern region. In addition, laws were passed to ensure that the northern people did not completely become citizens of the united nation. According to Zinn, the conclusion is that reconstruction did not bring many changes to the northern people.
According Paul Johnson, reconstruction means reuniting states that were previously in war. Paul argued that reconstruction involves punishing the states that had broken from the United States. States had become enemies and reuniting then meant that the enmity that existed had to be brought to an end. Reconstruction process involved readmitting the southern states to the union. It also involved giving the northern inhabitants the rights that they deserved such as the right to vote. The black Americans were given citizenship, which they previously did not have.
The argument by Johnson was that reconstruction involved passing of laws that brought the people from various states together. A bill that described the civil rights of the black people was passed. The bill introduced a second class citizenship considering that the rights that were granted to the blacks were not equal to the rights that were granted to the white people. Johnson however concludes that there were great changes that were brought by the reconstruction process.
The consensus definition of reconstruction was that states were brought together to form one big united nation that was under the leadership of the federal government. It involved granting the blacks some rights such as the right to vote and the right to be citizens of the united state. More civil rights were granted to the black Americans but these rights did not match the rights o the southern states. The southern states were also brought to the union in the reconstruction process.
The definition by Zinn fails to state clearly what reconstruction was all about considering that at the end, Zinn concludes that there were no much changes that were witnessed since blacks were left as inferior people as before. This contradicts the definition that they were granted some rights as citizens of the United States. The definition by Paul on the other hand fails because it does not clearly state what is meant by second class citizenship. The definition accepts the fact that the blacks were given some civil rights but fails to state why they remained second class citizens. The consensus definition on the other hand fails to tell the differences in terms of the rights that were granted to the southern people and the rights that were granted to the northern people.
The definition by Paul Johnson is superior to the other definitions. This is because it defines how the reconstruction process occurred and its objective. According to the definition, reconstruction involved bringing together southern and northern states together using various strategies. The definition appreciates that there were changes in the lives of the northern people but the southern people remained powerful as before.
Johnson, Paul. A History of the American People. Pymble, NSW: HarperCollins e-books, 2009. Internet resource.
Zinn, Howard, Mike Konopacki, and Paul Buhle. A People's History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008. Print.