Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880, by W.E.B. DuBois, is a must read. One Amazon reviewer wrote, “This book is a great clue to the puzzle of how we got where we are today.” Indeed, this period would inform the next 100 years in American history, and even today its’s part of the subtext in political machinations.
As I have written elsewhere, the Hayes-Tilden Compromise (1876-77), effectively ended the Reconstruction years in America. This period of Reconstruction was America’s first attempt to live up to her lofty ideals, especially for the descendants of Africans forcibly brought to this land even before the Constitution was ratified. This Compromise is one of many in American history adversely affecting Black people in America, most notably beginning with the founding of the nation and the Three-Fifths Compromise, written right into the U.S. Constitution.
Today, we see politicians on both sides of the aisle looking for advantages in the electorate; we see Democrats attempting to preserve the voting rights of Black people, and Republicans attempting to restrict these rights. (Here it is worth noting that the party of Abraham Lincoln, called “Radical Republicans” at this point and time in American history, pushed and enacted and to a certain extent promoted the rights of the newly freed “Americans” of African ancestry.) Ever since Black men were given the franchise with the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in 1870, there have been efforts to restrict or deny altogether the rights of Black voters. Southern politicians and their constituents found a way around the 13th Amendment (one of the three post-Civil War Amendments) by creating, passing, and enforcing laws in order to perpetuate slavery under another name, the penal system. With the 15th Amendment, these very same individuals resorted to intimidation and terror to keep Black men and years later Black women (with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 giving all women the right to vote), from exercising their constitutional right to vote.
One could argue that DuBois, in Black Reconstruction, is putting a “Black spin” on this period, but in actuality he’s correcting the false narrative of white historians, mostly Southerners, who would argue that Reconstruction was a failed experiment. But what do you expect from treasonous Rebels and their supporters who call the American Civil War “The War of Northern Aggression?” Just look at all the Confederal iconography standing more than 100 years after the South’s defeat we are only recently removing from public spaces. These Confederate monuments and memorials exist in large part because the South did not lose the Civil War.
Today, the white lies in the historical narrative, when corrected, is called “cancel culture.” The genocide of the indigenous people, slavery, and Jim Crow, are true examples of “cancel culture,” not asking white men to behave and to be held accountable in this brave new world.
DuBois eventually left these here United States and emigrated to Africa, to Ghana, because the way he understood the historical record, White America would not change, at least not in his lifetime.
And so, the work of Reconstruction continues. . .