Tuesday, July 7th
5pm-6pm

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A Brief Moment in the Sun: American Reconstruction 1863-1876


Far from the traditional narrative that Lincoln worked to free the slaves, both sides of the Civil War fought to keep slavery in their country.  The Emancipation Proclamation freed nobody, since it wasn't enforceable in Confederate states and didn't apply to slaves in non-Confederate states.

In "Black Reconstruction", WEB Du Bois argued that the civil war was won by a general strike by the slaves against the plantation system— they took advantage of the war to transfer their labor to the Union army effort, both as soldiers and as workers.

For twelve years after the war, the federal government worked alongside social and religious organizations to secure social and political rights and found schools and hospitals for the newly free citizens.  It was a historic outpouring of democratic self-government, perhaps the greatest in American history.

However, the local reinstitution of slavery-era laws and social controls over Black behavior, planters' efforts to keep Black workers tied to the plantations by debt, and the rise of murderous white supremacist terrorists formed significant barriers to Black progress.

When the national government gave up on enforcing Reconstruction policy in the South in 1876, these terrorists seized power across the South, rolled back the last decade of advances, and created a Jim Crow apartheid state that would last for most of the next century.

Presented by Alex Wells, B.A. Political Science at UC Davis & fellow traveler


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