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After the Civil War, some freedpeople ended up owning parcels of the land they had worked while enslaved. By the end of Reconstruction, most of them had no land to their names. In the first episode of Reconstruction, Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore how radical experiments in land ownership and redistribution both helped and failed freedpeople. Read Rebecca and Jamelle’s introduction to the series.
The era of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War was our best chance to build an American democracy grounded in racial equality. Its failure helps explain why race, “states’ rights,” and the legacy of the Confederacy remain central themes in our politics today.