Reconstruction

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4: Experiments in State Politics

How corrupt was politics in the Reconstruction era?

Episode Notes

Formerly enslaved black Americans held a majority of the seats in South Carolina’s state Legislature in 1868, and no other state elected as many black Americans during the Reconstruction era. How successfully did these politicians wield their newfound power? And compared to other eras, was political corruption really as endemic as white Americans claimed?

In Episode 4 of Reconstruction, Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie are joined by Kate Masur, the author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, D.C., to explore the new political order that surfaced briefly in South Carolina and other Southern states after the Civil War.

Supplemental reading for this episode:
“Slave Emancipation and the Revolutionizing of Human Rights” by Amy Dru Stanley, originally published in The World the Civil War Made.
An excerpt from Kate Masur’s An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, D.C.

About the Show

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.

Don’t miss Rebecca and Jamelle’s previous podcast, The History of American Slavery.

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