Russell Spinney

The topic of Reconstruction represents the “Second Founding” of our country, as historian Eric Foner argues. It is also arguably the least taught or most poorly and falsely taught period in U.S. history. Often caricatured as a failure as the result of Black Americans and Abolitionists, in reality, this period shows the successes of Black Americans to carve out their own lives in the face of growing terror, lynching, Jim Crow segregationist laws, and neo-slavery (from Douglass Blackmon), i.e., the human trafficking of African Americans up until World War II, and even later.

The work of a new generation of African American leaders like W. E. B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells in response to this oppression laid the groundwork for the modern Civil Rights Movement. So, I teach to this history more in my classrooms in order to support students of color and white allies seeking historical role models and Constitutional precedents for fighting injustice today, and would urge more schools to teach a revised and truthful version of Reconstruction to more students in the future.