Reconstruction and the Racial Construction of the American Present

Uncommon God, Common Good | 5/25/2019 | Staff
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The philosopher George Santayana remarked that those who do not understand history tend to repeat it. I was reminded of this statement in view of a recent conversation. If we don’t understand the history surrounding Reconstruction after the Civil War, we may be repeating some of the same historical mistakes.

The person who encouraged me to reflect back on Reconstruction is Rev. Dr. LeRoy Haynes, Jr. This week, Dr. Haynes and I met for lunch in downtown Portland. I have known Dr. Haynes for many years and have found his perspective on civil rights issues invaluable, and for good reason. Dr. Haynes is the author of God’s Prophet in Non-Violence: The Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life. In addition to his longstanding service as a pastoral leader in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, The Portland Observer wrote concerning him: “An acclaimed civil rights activist in Texas before moving to Portland, he served as a youth organizer for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference ; was a field organizer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee; and was co-founder of the Texas Black Panther Party.” His civil rights activism continues into the present on matters pertaining to the collective well-being of people across the region and nation on such matters as racism, poverty, and healthcare. Recently, he was voted into the Oregon Historical Society. So, when Dr. Haynes encourages me to consider a matter from racialized American history to understand the present, I am wise if I take the matter to heart.

Reconstruction - Encyclopedia - Britannica - Definition

Now for those of us who may be wondering what Reconstruction was, Encyclopedia Britannica offers this helpful definition:

Reconstruction, in U.S. history, the period (1865–77) that followed the American Civil War and during which attempts were made to redress the inequities of slavery and its political, social, and economic...
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