Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude. It is ratified by the states in December.

Congress establishes the Freedman's Bureau to provide aid to former slaves during Reconstruction.

On the 9th, General Robert E. Lee surrenders to the General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomatox Courthouse, Virginia, ending the Civil War. On the 14th, John Wilkes Booth assassinates Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. Vice President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, is sworn in as President. In May, President Johnson grants amnesty to former Confederate officials.

Black Codes proliferate across the South, segregating public schools and barring blacks from voting, entering into contracts, holding property, serving on juries, and testifying against whites. The Black Codes are generally understood as an attempt to reduce the newly freed blacks to a condition little better than slavery.