Jennie Isabel Coleman, an American woman who was interviewed about her life and the history of her native town, Feasterville. After reading the abstracts of what she said, one can say that she was a kind of authority on history of the place, she was living in. It can be proved by the fact that Jennie Isabel Coleman mentioned some key facts about the first settlers, Feasters and Colemans. In particular, she pointed out that because of the influence of these two families, the townspeople supported the reform that aimed at civic improvement. Woman’s erudition in the area of history is clearly seen by the fact that she knows even such minor details, as the origin of the surname “Feasters”. Jennie Isabel Coleman was extremely proud of her ancestors. It is noticeable in her description of David Roe Coleman, whom she depicted as “useful citizen and a good neighbor” (Dixon, n.d.). We may presume that this woman was proud to be Coleman by descent. It is clear that she was not only an authority on history, but also that she was respected and honored by the members of her community. One should note that she was a clever and well-educated person with her own civic position and independent views on everything. Jennie Isabel Coleman was not only capable of stating her opinion on different aspects of American Reconstruction Era, but also supported them by her own memories of those times and things she heard from the members of her family (Dixon, n.d.).
It is undeniable that Jennie Isabel Coleman knew a lot about the period of Reconstruction in the USA. It is also true that she expressed some ideas that could have sounded outrageous for some of her community members. For the majority of people, Reconstruction was a period in history during which African Americans were liberated and enfranchised. Nevertheless, these freedmen could not enjoy the same rights and liberties, as all the White people in America. The very idea of Reconstruction presupposed a change of established civil order that took deep roots in the people’s mentality. Consequently, in some of the Southern states the freedmen, people who arrived from the Northern states, or carpetbaggers, as they were called, and citizens of the Southern states who supported Reconstruction tried to promote the idea of biracial government. One of the Reconstruction programs they introduced was connected to creation of charitable institutions and public schools for people of all skin colors (Dixon, n.d.).
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People who opposed the idea of Reconstruction formed groups which they named Ku Klux Klan. These secret organizations provided a vehicle for hatred in America and its members were responsible for atrocities that are even difficult to imagine. Members of Ku Klux Klan literally could get away with murder. Roots of racism and prejudice sustained Ku Klux Klan for many years. While describing Ku Klux Klan times, Jennie Isabel Coleman mentions her childhood memories of men who came to their town, stayed for some time and then disappeared. She describes them as objects of young girls’ romantic dreams, but not as brutal, ferocious killers. The picture she draws in people’ minds may not only confuse and surprise, but also shock the members of her community. What romantic aspect can be found in Ku Klux Klan members who not only treated cruelly, but murdered and crippled recently liberated African Americans (Dixon, n.d.)?
African Americans greeted the end of Civil War with a mixture of hope, joy, and worries. Slavery’s chains were broken at last. However, tremendous obstacles stood in the path of millions of former slaves who had been given little more than their freedom. During Reconstruction the freed people struggled to find jobs, build homes, gain education, and secure their civil rights. That is why African Americans, as well as people from the North tried to promote the reform that was aimed at changing the society forever. Jennie Isabel Coleman was not an ardent supporter of Reconstruction reform. She considered that the Northern government, established in the Southern states after the Civil War, is unfair and limits independence of White American citizens. She goes even further by stating that White Americans became serves of their former slaves. Her speech is openly directed against the Northerners whom she obviously hates. The community of Feasterville would probably be of the same opinion as Jennie Isabel Coleman, as it was a general tendency of that time that people from the South did not like or even hate people from the North. Such situation may be explained by the fact that the Southerners were more dependent on slaves and could not get used to the idea that they are now free. From this same reason they did not support the reforms of the Reconstruction Era (Dixon, n.d.).
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