Reconstructing the Reconstruction – the Aftermath of Slavery, and the Continuing Fight for Equal Justice

35m | Oct 30, 2020

Guest: Michael David Cohen, PhD

Dr. Cohen is a research professor in the Department of Government and a faculty fellow in the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, in Washington, DC. He is a historian of nineteenth-century America, and currently serves as editor and project director of the Correspondence of the twelfth and thirteenth presidents of the United states, Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore. His previous works include: the letters of the eleventh president of the United States, James K. Polk, and the the Papers of Women’s Rights Activists & Abolitionists: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

He is a graduate of Harvard University and Carleton College; and is the author of Reconstructing the Campus: Higher Education and the American Civil War – winner of the Critics’ Choice Book Award.

Discussion centers on issues around Reconstruction after the Civil War and the comparison to the racial injustices from the 19th century to today.

From voter disenfranchisement – poll taxes and literacy tests – to the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s – to the “purpose and meaning” of erecting Confederate statues in the South, and the messages they were meant to send to future generations. A historical account of racial discrimination and family separation policies of a nineteenth century slave-owner president – to family separation policies of today. A survey of the aftermath of Reconstruction and the education system that followed including: the US Supreme Court ruling in “Plessy v. Ferguson” making “Separate but Equal” the law of the land, to “Brown v Board of Education” – striking down ‘Separate but Equal’ as Unconstitutional. Explanation of the benefits and challenges posed by the ratification of the 13th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution abolishing slavery, and giving black men the right to vote.

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