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Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877
Black political power during Reconstruction was short-lived—eclipsed, in significant part, by a campaign of terror. Now we think that the aftermath—the confrontation not of blue and gray but of white and black, and the reimposition of apartheid through terror—is what has left the deepest mark on American history. Instead of arguing about whether the war could have turned out any other way, we argue about whether the postwar could have turned out any other way. Was there ever a fighting chance for full black citizenship, equality before the law, agrarian reform? Or did the combination of hostility and indifference among white Americans make the disaster inevitable? Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Why does the brief period known as Reconstruction, a century and a half ago, still influence the state of the Union so heavily? The enormous consequences of these events — the re-establishment of white supremacy, extreme disparities of wealth and power between whites and blacks, the entrenchment of racism — were divisive for the nation and devastating for blacks. The 13th abolished slavery, in The 14th guaranteed equality and also citizenship for anyone born in America, in The 15th gave black men who were citizens the right to vote, in
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