Name and Confront White Supremacy and White Terror

The headline above is one of the recommendations in our report, Erasing the Black Freedom Struggle. Most state standards and textbooks rarely name “white supremacy,” leaving students ill-equipped to recognize its current manifestations. It is time to correct that.

Over the next few months, we will share selected findings from our report on Reconstruction. It is urgent that our curriculum focuses on Reconstruction to help name and define our own times.


Reconstruction did not simply end, nor was it simply defeated. As African Americans sought to end racial injustice, they were met by a white supremacist backlash.

Standards and curricula often mention the KKK, the Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws, but they fail to name white supremacy as the root of these attacks on Reconstruction.

A freedmen’s school set to flames by white mob in 1866 in Memphis.

Reconstruction was not a “failure.” Students should learn that specific white supremacist individuals, organizations, and systems actively defeated it.

The racialized nature of capitalism in the United States cannot be understood without tracing it back to Reconstruction.

Standards and curricula should address, for instance, how Northern elites and the Republican Party cared more about their own financial interests than racial justice. Northern industrialists built railroads on public lands seized in the South. As workers challenged their exploitation, Northern and Southern elites united against them. Many people who had once supported the federal government’s protection of the rights of African Americans turned away to promote their own economic interests.


The report includes 10 Points Everyone Should Learn About Reconstruction.

Read the Reconstruction Report

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