Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Talks His New PBS Series 'Reconstruction: America: After the Civil War'
To understand the 2015 massacre of nine Black worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina at the hands of a white supremacist — or to begin unpacking the long history and continued terror of Black people at the hands of whites, we must understand the history of America. Often, the antebellum period, the Civil War, and the civil rights movement are referenced. However, in his new four-hour PBS series, Reconstruction: America After the Civil War, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. argues that much of the racial turmoil, violence, and inequities in this country stem from the collapse of the Reconstruction era.
Ahead of the series premiere, Professor Gates hosted an evening at the New York Historical Society where he discussed Reconstruction, why it was vital to unpack this time period, and what it all means for us now. Shadow And Act was on hand for his keynote address.
"Between 1865 and 1877, Black people experienced more freedom and rights than at any other time in American history," Gates explained. "It's the embodiment of [Abraham] Lincoln's new birth of freedom, from the Gettysburg Address or what scholars later have called America's second founding. But most schools don't teach much about Reconstruction. They’re skipping from [General Robert E.] Lee's surrender at Appomattox to Rosa Parks, Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.], and the civil rights movement."
If you think about the ten year period that was Reconstruction— it seems nearly unfathomable. Black people owned land and were opening businesses. Black men were voted into various branches of the government, and some Black men had the right to vote. So, how did we go from this vision of a new America to Jim Crow, the civil rights movement and the rampant white supremacy of the 21st century?
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