Generally speaking, in the U.S. history, the term “reconstruction” involves: first, a historical period following the Civil War between the Southern United States and the Northern, and second, the transformation of the South in the period from 1865-1866 to 1877 during the restructuring of the government and society in the former Confederacy.
By the middle of the XIX century, the slavery in the southern U.S. featured a brake in economic and social development of the country. Since the capitalism in the Northern States of America quickly developed, the industrial revolution came to a head, covering all major sectors of industrial production. United States, along with Britain, France, and Germany have become a part of the four advanced industrial countries of the world. At the same time, the south of the country continued to be an extremely backward area because of the dominated slavery. By this time, the balance of social classes in the country changed as well. It is obvious that the phenomenon of Reconstruction was logical and unavoidable.
Speaking about major social and political achievements of Reconstruction, the main one is, certainly, the abolition of slavery. In 1877, the army's participation in the governing in the South was stopped. Democratic governments of the southern states did not restore slavery, but discriminatory laws, called Jim Crow laws, were accepted. As a result, African Americans were second-class citizens, and the racist principles of white supremacy were still dominated. Yet, it was a big step forward.
Needless to mention that one of the most important issues of that period was the issue of the voting rights of citizens of the former Confederacy. Measures were taken to limit the voting rights of the losers in the war. As a result of the liberation of the slaves in the South, a host of new citizens, who were supposed to be provided the voting rights, emerged. After many disputes in the period from 1890 to 1908, the Southern states have limited voting rights for color and the poor whites, introducing educational and property qualifications.
Additionally, it is important to stress that the era of Reconstruction also featured other important areas: education, transport infrastructure, taxation, and land code.
As for the policies of President Andrew Johnson, he tried to follow the policy of his predecessor. Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, called the policy of Johnson too "soft". They had their own vision of the reforms needed in the U. S. While they cogitated so separately, thinking only of practical implementation of their plans and not thinking of efficiency of joint actions, there were no chances for a more focused plan for rebuilding the Union. In addition, it was a harsh time in the history and rather critical methods of reforming and governing too. It is interesting that the similar idea was expressed by the writer Anton Chekhov in his play "The Cherry Orchard", saying that the garden (metaphor for the state) should be gradually put in order, or chopped completely and a new garden planted instead. Johnson was for soft measures of gradually putting everything in order; Republicans wanted to start with a clean sheet. Who knows, maybe it occurs to be good that they interfered with each other.