I used the Reconstructing the South role play materials in Augustana College’s winter symposium day on the theme of “privilege.” We had a good discussion and felt the challenges in addressing the questions. We felt that even with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we didn’t have adequate solutions that would result in less racism and inequality in the post Reconstruction period up through the present.
For instance, while we agreed that we freed slaves earned the right to own much, if not all, of the land we toiled on, we were concerned about our wellbeing. How would we keep the heavily armed former slave-owners from hurting or murdering us? On this question, we came to the conclusion that freed slaves should earn a percentage of the profits earned from the land, but not be required to operate them. We wanted to go north, even though we knew they were racist up there too.
In the end, we all wanted to know more about what actually happened during Reconstruction. This was encouraging. I urged participants to read Du Bois’ Black Reconstruction as well as Foner’s Short History of Reconstruction.