It could have gone differently after the Civil War. And for a while, it did.
From the moment of their defeat, the Southern states resisted any attempt to break the chains of slavery. Under the approving eye of President Andrew Johnson, they passed the “Black Codes,” a series of laws that proscribed nearly every freedom that emancipation should have conferred: Freedom to peaceably assemble. Freedom to keep and bear arms. Freedom to be tried by an impartial jury. Freedom to vote. At the beginning of each year, Black men were required to sign a contract with a White employer. If they didn’t, they would be forced to work for free—and often, their children would too. Involuntary labor, they called it. Not slavery. 1
What, one wonders, had all the fighting been for?