In 1876, the nation was still scarred and divided by the Civil War, which had ended a decade earlier. During the war’s aftermath, approximately four million enslaved people were freed, and a Republican-controlled Congress moved swiftly to protect their rights and restore the Confederacy to the Union. Southern states, meanwhile, chafed at their loss of political and social power.
Then came a presidential election that changed everything. Deemed the nation’s most divisive ever—until 2020, that is—the election of 1876 ended with an unusual compromise. And its weighty consequences still resound today. Here’s what you need to know.
In the post-Civil War era known as Reconstruction, newly enfranchised Black voters overwhelmingly supported the Republican Party, whose members embraced President Abraham Lincoln and