What lessons of Reconstruction can we take away to apply to today? (The Reconstruction Era)?
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Reconstruction refers to the period, generally dated from 1865 to 1877, during which the nation’s laws and Constitution were rewritten to guarantee the basic rights of the former slaves, and biracial governments came to power throughout the defeated Confederacy. They established the South’s first state-funded public school systems, sought to strengthen the bargaining power of plantation laborers, made taxation more equitable and outlawed racial discrimination in transportation and public accommodations. They offered aid to railroads and other enterprises in the hope of creating a New South whose economic expansion would benefit black and white alike. Reconstruction also made possible the consolidation of black families, so often divided by sale during slavery, and the establishment of the independent black church as the core institution of the emerging black community. But the failure to respond to the former slaves’ desire for land left most with no choice but to work for their former owners But the economic, social, and political power that blacks began to accumulate was often met with waves of brutal violence and intimidation calculated to affect elections. If Reconstruction was a tragedy, it was because it failed to create true economic and political equality. Studying this time can lead to conversations about the corrosive effects of violence and intimidation on the ability of citizens to vote their consciences and speak their minds in a democracy. And it can shed essential light on the complex dilemmas we face today. When we study history and make connections to the present, we cannot look for simple answers to our current dilemmas. We can ask our students to discuss what language is being used in national conversations about “us and them” and see how words can be used to dehumanize and exclude groups from a nation. We need to ask probing questions about our country and our choices. Why have our nation’s most difficult and violent moments occurred after progress in the struggle for black freedom, equality, and self-determination? Source: NY Times & facinghistory.org
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