2016 Essay Contest First Place, Junior Division

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Lizzy Stanton, 7th Grade

Post 1865: Effects of the War

The history of the United States of America is laid out in front of us like a beautiful, complex tapestry woven with images of patriotism, pride, sacrifice, and bloodshed. This tapestry was ripped in half by the brutality of a civil war that has proven to be the most paramount event in our collective experience. The extensive postwar efforts to help repair a fractured and divided country has not been confined to past generations, but remains a work in progress, no matter how imperfect the process seems. Coping with the postwar consequences of the American Civil War and pushing toward reconciliation have proven to be the motivation to transform our once broken country into a united nation. The mended tapestry that is now the United States of America provides many lessons for our generation to understand all aspects of what it means to achieve lasting reconciliation, providing hope for our future.

As military leaders and politicians surveyed the battlefields at the close of the Civil War, there was massive destruction. Men continued to die and many unanswered questions occupied a grieving nation. The great issues at the heart of this conflict were not answered with the surrender of the Confederate Army. The most prominent threads woven into our national tapestry remain ones of equality for all people and the absolute right to liberty. This is underlined by the emancipation of slaves during the Civil War and the following amending of the U.S. Constitution. The honest and sincere effort to reach equality for all people is our unfinished Civil War. The devastating failures with race relations, such as the Jim Crow segregation in the South at the turn of the 20th century and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, are strands of our tapestry that can be traced back to the unresolved postwar reconciliation of emancipation.

Understanding and preserving the history of the Civil War are essential to creating a future that offers greater equality for the American people. While we look back on the American Civil War as a bloody and ruthless time in our history, it is crucial to remember the importance of preserving and teaching such complex and painful events. A study of history provides people with a starting point to begin a meaningful dialogue towards reconciliation. As the North and the South have rebuilt and completed the reunion of our nation, future generations are tasked with furthering the fight against racism. As we work towards equality for all, we come closer to mending the rift in our beautiful tapestry.