Post-Civil War Reconstruction: A second American founding and its legacies

Reconstruction era art

A contested election. Political extremism and violence. Challenges to the right to vote. In recent years, American democracy has endured a series of momentous crises.  

Yet, this is not the first time that our political system has come under assault. Roughly one hundred and fifty years ago, during the period known as Reconstruction, radical Republicans with an inclusive vision of American nationality launched the greatest expansion of democracy in American history, extending civil and political rights to millions of formerly enslaved African Americans. Then, in the late 19th century, the Reconstruction political order was demolished. Multiracial democracy was rolled back—especially in the South—and replaced by a brutal racial caste system that would endure into the 1950s and beyond.  

This full-day program, concluding with an interactive panel, will explore the rise and fall of Reconstruction. At a time when the fate of democracy seems to be at stake once again, this program will also consider what lessons the history of Reconstruction holds for Americans in the 21st century. 

Instructor: David Blight and James Shinn; moderated by Richard Friswell

Date: Saturday, April 30, 2022

Time: 9:00 am - 4:30 pm (lunch is included)

Location: Exley 58 on the Wesleyan Campus