In order to better understand the phenomenon of Trumpism and his supporters, we submit to our readers Du Bois’s analysis of the environment leading up to the civil war, the role of blacks during the civil war, and the “First Reconstruction.” If the civil rights movement could be considered the “Second Reconstruction,” then the Obama era might be considered the “Third Reconstruction.” The reaction to each Reconstruction era by whites, including our present period, should be noted.
Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880 is a history of the Reconstruction era by W. E. B. Du Bois, first published in 1935. It marked a significant break with the standard academic view of Reconstruction at the time, marked by the Dunning School, which contended that the period was a failure and downplayed the contributions of African Americans. Du Bois argued directly against these accounts, emphasizing the role and agency of blacks during the Civil War and Reconstruction and framing it as a period that held promise for a worker-ruled democracy to replace a slavery-based plantation economy. He noted that the southern working class, i.e. black freedmen and poor whites, were divided after the Civil War along the lines of race, and did not unite against the white propertied class, i.e. the former planters. He believed this failure enabled the white Democrats to regain control of state legislatures, pass Jim Crow laws, and disfranchise most blacks and many poor whites in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Du Bois’ extensive use of data and primary source material on the postwar political economy of the former Confederate States is notable, as is the literary style of this 750-page essay. He notes major achievements, such as establishing public education in the South for the first time, the founding of charitable institutions to care for all citizens, the extension of the vote to the landless whites, and investment in public infrastructure. Wikipedia