Gene Dattel and Peter W. Wood look back on the legacy of Reconstruction. They ask: was it a splendid failure, or just pure failure? Either way, Reconstruction is one of the most notable policy failures in history. Why it failed is still up for some debate: was it from a lack of effort or was Reconstruction a fruit picked before it ripened?
Gene notes that the Civil War brought no great conversion to tolerance. The day before signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln prepared to send freed blacks to Haiti. Even Harriet Beecher Stowe’s record is spotted.
Gene grew up in the Mississippi Delta, where cotton was king. He is the author of Cotton and Race in the Making of America, and Reckoning with Race: America’s Failure, which was published in 2017 by Encounter Books.
In this podcast, Gene and Peter discuss the civil rights movement, whether the United States should pay reparations for slavery, and the rise of Black separatism. In closing, I ask Gene, if he were made history czar for the United States, what texts he would assign students to read?