Celebrations, exhibitions, and media coverage of the sesquicentennial of the ending of the Civil War have concluded. The historic moments—Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860, the beginning of the war at Fort Sumter, the victory at Gettysburg, the Gettysburg Address, the Confederate surrender at Appomattox (April 9, 1865), and the assassination of Lincoln have been duly re-memorialized.

Now America confronts a more complex chapter, the murky years—1865–1877—of Reconstruction. There will be few triumphal observances for there was no happy ending. Instead, America will be exposed to reams of material blaming the South for our racial conundrum and speculating on the lost opportunity for equality. Nevertheless, all of the issues of Reconstruction circle back inexorably to one fact—the attitude of the white North towards blacks.

The scene at...


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