Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2020

1876 Redestruction: Supreme Court puts the final nail in the coffin of Reconstruction

  From the winner of 2019 Pulitzer Prize:  Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom  by David W. Blight As the election neared in 1876, all knew the last vestiges of Reconstruction policies and regimes were at stake in the remaining "unredeemed" Southern states. In 1876 the project of Reconstruction, and perhaps the United States itself, were like a huge battleship slowly turning around as it lost power; once turning, it could hardly be stopped, even if the same group of officers remained at the helm.  That year the Supreme Court weakened the Reconstruction-era constitutional amendments by emasculating the enforcement clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and revealing deficiencies in the Fifteenth Amendment.  In US v. Cruikshank, based on prosecutions for the horrible Colfax massacre of  1873, the Court overruled the conviction of Louisiana whites who had attacked a political meeting of blacks and conspired to deprive them of their rights.  The justices ruled that the Fourteenth

1865 to 1880s: Have we learned *and* gained nothing in the 156 years as 2021 arrives?

From the winner of 2019 Pulitzer Prize: Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight Douglass found himself in a position, a decade and a half after emancipation, not unlike many leaders of the modern civil rights movement. They have to fight to protect political and constitutional triumphs, as well as a new national historical memory, while they also face a deepening crisis of structural repression and inequality. Douglass's story, when he was heroically right as well as disappointingly wrong, was a rehearsal for the long haul of postemancipation and post-civil rights black and progressive leadership who have encountered foes as virulent as the Democratic Party's Southern Redeemers of the 1870s and much of the Republican Party  in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

150+ years later, a look back at the aftermath of the Civil War (which took place 78 years after the US Constitution was written)

{ The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments crumbled to dust in the face of armed white resistance, intimidation and terror perpetrated against blacks in elections in various Southern states. In August 1874, resurgent Democrats in Alabama used an array of coercion, targeted assassination, and in one instance in Eufaula in Barbour County, the murder of seven blacks and the wounding of some seventy more on Election Day to defeat an already divided Republican interracial coalition. In Mobile, blacks were driven from polls by white mobs, and in other places ballot boxes were burned. In September 1874 in New Orleans, in the "Battle of Liberty Place," a throng of thirty-five hundred "White Leaguers," composed largely of Confederate veterans, drove black militiamen and Metropolitan Police away from official buildings and took over city hall, the statehouse, and an arsenal. Mississippi produced the worst violence of all. Municipal and county elections in and around Vicksburg

Reconstruction, Confederate style: The Civil War was won by the South

From:  Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom , 2018 Pulitzer prize winning biography by David W. Blight { (In the immediate aftermath of Lincoln's assassination,) the new President, Andrew Johnson (the Tennessean) enabled the ex-Confederates. He was an ardent states' rightist. He shared none of the Radical Republicans' expansive conception of federal power. He was a staunch white supremacist who accepted the end of slavery but could not abide the idea of black civil and political rights. His philosophy toward Reconstruction rested in a slogan: "The Constitution as it is, and the Union as it was." Congress had recessed shortly after Johnson was sworn in after Lincoln's death. So during virtually all of the rest of 1865, the new president's lenient, rapid, and largely pro-Southern approach dominated what historian John Hope Franklin once called "Reconstruction, Confederate style." By September, Johnson had initiated a generous policy of pardons t