Eric Foner on Reconstruction

Given this morning’s post on Reconstruction, I’m hoping that these three videos featuring Eric Foner’s views on Reconstruction will help spark reflection and discussion.  Once again, thet come from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

In the first video Foner discusses how our views of Reconstruction have changed over time.

In the second video Foner discusses Republican Reconstruction initiatives in 1866.

In the third video Foner defines Reconstruction’s legacy.

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3 thoughts on “Eric Foner on Reconstruction

  1. Professor Foner’s point about getting back to 1866 via 1964, I understand, but I don’t agree with how he frames it historically as if there was in fact a retrograde movement. I don’t think that’s the case. I would agree that is the case legally, but in 1866 ex-Confederates weren’t participating in the making of Federal law. Without secession and the Civil War that law doesn’t even come about in 1866 probably. Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction for a majority of the white South was about maintaining the status quo, and if that is what a majority of white southerners wanted, that’s what a majority of white southerners wanted… the Federal government and its Reconstruction be damned.

    • I see its complexity a little deeper than just “what a majority of white southerners wanted” as noted “in 1866 ex-Confederates weren’t participating in the making of Federal law” . And I feel its reasonable to believe the majority of white southerners did want to hold and reclaim their land but they needed support of the US Congress and others in the US government . Once again as you stated “in 1866 ex-Confederates weren’t participating in the making of Federal law”. One example is ‘ The Sherman Reservation 1865-66 ‘ a large strip of land between coastal Florida that ran up to the southern tip of Charleston South Carolina. It was to be distributed to free blacks. It was the 1866 Congress that rescinded the plan. The land was returned to the pre-war land owners by the US government. Looking at some of the southern coastal land owners who retained their land was the descendants of Revolutionary war hero Nathanael Greene, and men like Robert Stafford of Cumberland Island Georgia. Robert Stafford a planter and slave owner that did not support secession or the Confederacy and that was his argument to keep his land. The descendants of Nathanael Greene were not supporters of the Confederacy, I can not find a solid stance on where they stood on secession. A former Governor of New York’s daughter was married into that family of planters. They had political connections in the north they called on to protect their interests. What I see in part as a failure of Reconstruction is a wealthy aristocracy class in the north that were of like minds to the Southern planter aristocracy, they protected their own. Then what about the Southerners who were loyal to the Union? Was their land to be taken and redistributed also? Was the nation as a whole ready to receive American Blacks as equals ? It can get complicated.

  2. Of course, definitely… the ex-Confederates not participating in the democratic process at the time is just one factor that stands out. I totally agree that there were Unionists, North and South, who were not interested in seeing Reconstruction politically and economically transform the South.

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