Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Why We Need a National Monument to Reconstruction - The New York Times

Image result for black reconstruction
There was a time in America when African Americans wielded real political power.  Reconstruction - the post civil war era when Ulysses Grant was President - saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments - barring slavery, establishing citizenship rights, and the right to vote.  It was a time of great struggle as Black people fought white militias to hold onto their rights.  But that era is little remembered now.  Forgotten are the great betrayals by the United States Supreme Court.  In U.S. v. Cruikshank the Supreme Court barred federal prosecution of those who murdered black citizens  defending the courthouse in Grant Parish, Louisiana.  Strictly a matter of state law, they said.  Except for a brief period (1954-1971) the United States Supreme Court has been more hindrance than help to Black citizens seeking justice.
With the election of Donald J. Trump and the elevation to Attorney General of the deplorable jeff Sessions it would be particularly appropriate if President Obama acted to create a national monument to Reconstruction.  South Carolina is a particularly appropriate place for it.  The first shots of the Civil war were fired there - and the political power of the Black majority of citizens was stolen by systematic denial of the right to vote. -  GWC
Why We Need a National Monument to Reconstruction - The New York Times
by G

Although Americans are already looking ahead to the next presidential administration, President Obama retains the power to shape his legacy and our nation in his remaining weeks in office. He has already used his final months to create several national monuments, and we urge him to create another, one that will speak as much to the nation’s present and future as it does to its past: the first national monument dedicated to Reconstruction — the turbulent, misunderstood era after the Civil War — in Beaufort, S.C., which has one of the country’s highest concentrations of Reconstruction-related sites.

Work on the monument is already underway. Community leaders in Beaufort have submitted a formal request to the National Park Service for a monument that encompasses key sites of emancipation and postwar community-building. In May, two South Carolina representatives — James Clyburn, a Democrat, and Mark Sanford, a Republican — sponsored a resolution to establish a national monument to the Reconstruction era. And last month, a group of 17 historians who have been helping the National Park Service study Reconstruction, as well as the American Historical Association and other professional historical groups, endorsed this effort.

This is a crucial time to commemorate Reconstruction. The period after the Civil War created the modern United States: Three constitutional amendments ended slavery, created equal legal protection and birthright citizenship, and prohibited racial discrimination in voting laws. Four million formerly enslaved Americans reconstructed their families and communities, establishing thousands of churches and schools and civic organizations.

Reconstruction was the nation’s first great experiment in biracial democracy, with hundreds of thousands of black men able to vote for the first time, and significant numbers holding elective office. Largely for that reason, Southern planters led coups against local governments that supported Reconstruction, and went on to bar blacks and many poor whites from voting and to construct a system of Jim Crow racial exclusion.

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