On social media and in previous posts on this blog, a number of teachers have identified a video, "The Legacies of Reconstruction" as providing a helpful voice this week. In addition to the opportunity to explore the history that is relevant for understanding today's world, there is a message of hope. For those not as familiar with the history of Reconstruction or this video in particular, we wanted to share an excerpt. We hope it is encouragement through tough conversations, whether at school or in our communities.
David Blight: Whenever we revisit the 14th amendment, we’re revisiting Reconstruction. Whenever we revisit uses of violence we’re revisiting reconstruction. And every time we find ourselves surprised about explosions or problems, or stresses and tensions in our race relations, we are in some ways revisiting that first reconstruction and second reconstruction.
George Lipsitz: So here we are, living in our time, and there are plenty of reasons to despair. There are plenty of reasons to think even if you end slavery, even if you pass civil rights laws, you can think maybe nothing is going to change. But if people had thought that in 1859, there never would have been the first reconstruction. If people had thought that in 1959 in Montgomery AL, there wouldn’t have been the second reconstruction through the Civil Rights Movement. And if we think that today we guarantee that there will never be another reconstruction to try and fulfill these promises and that would be a great tragedy. It would be a great loss to all of us. And the fact that we’re familiar with this tragedy, with this betrayal, of the freedom dreams of black people, it certainly is a cause for sadness. But it’s also a cause to think we know this place, we’ve been here before, we come from a tradition: people of all colors, and all races come from a tradition of social justice in which all men and women thought it was worth risking everything to create a fair and democratic society. And the very fact that we could even know that and that could make us feel warm inside to think that we’re a part of that indicates how powerful Reconstruction is.
Lipsitz: So the answers to the questions of what is reconstruction and what it’s meaning onward: it’s a chapter that’s unwritten. And this is a chapter that the people studying it not only have to read about, but to think about how you’re going to write the chapter, not in your notebooks, but in society as men and women with responsibility and opportunity.
Watch the whole video here.