Let me start off by saying that I had already seen on PBS Part 1 of "Reconstruction: America After the Civil War". I hadn't seen part 2 yet but even before the closing credits to Part 1 has finished I was already online to Amazon seeing if it was possible to purchase either on DVD or blu-ray a copy of this excellent documentary. As it turned out Amazon was offering this program on DVD. Coming out at the end of April you could pre-order a copy which I immediately did. This was a video that there was no question in my mind I needed to add to my library.
This documentary deals with one of the most critical times in U.S. history, Reconstruction. Happening with the end of the Civil War in 1865 and lasting to 1877 it was where the southern states that had seceded to form the Confederacy were slowly being brought back as part of the United States again. It would not be an easy process that was made worse when you added the factor there were many southerners who were still bitter over losing the war and resisted just about every step of the way with rejoining the Union. It was a period in time in U.S. history that was as bloody and at times more horrific that what they faced during the war itself. Yet for all that would take place during that time few Americans today know much about Reconstruction.
Henry Louis Gates Jr takes on this important subject in American history and does an outstanding job in presenting the facts and events that would take place during that 12 year period. While it is important for Americans to know about the Civil War and understand how it effected and still effects the country today Reconstruction probably has done more to shape and define the attitude and behavior of 21st century America. Certainly one of the more interesting features in this documentary is how Gates uses current events that have occurred within the past few years showing the racial tension and mistrust that has grown between whites and blacks. As an example they use the 2015 church shooting in South Carolina when a white supremacist murdered nine African-Americans during a prayer service. From there Gates goes into presenting the history behind Reconstruction that shows the racial tension that would develope during that time as white southerners watch as those blacks who had been held in slavery were now free. Not just free but now owning land and businesses. And not just being able to vote but running for public office AND getting elected. (History fact: the first black to be elected to the U.S. Senate was Hiram Revels in 1870 from the state of Mississippi) As all this was going on resentment was growing among some white southerners, especially those who were slave owners. As they watched these former slaves thriving and succeeding while northern troops were overseeing the reunification of the country they began to push back. The Ku Klux Klan is formed as a secret army to resist those northern troops while terrorizing the freed blacks to prevent them from exercising their newly gained rights is one example of the South's attempted resistance to reconstruction.
From there the documentary goes on to describe how with changing attitudes and political moves all the rights gained by the former slaves are slowly taken away from them. From their property to their businesses to their rights for voting. All the blacks have left when it's all over was their freedom. This too contributes to the attitude and behavior of today between whites and black.
Altogether this is a well produced, well written and well made documentary dealing with a most critical time in the history of this country. This is something all Americans need to watch. Regardless of your political or personal beliefs this DVD will expose you to some important facts and moments dealing with a much unknown point of time in the United States.
I won’t go into detail, because the previous reviewer did an amazing job. I own this dvd digitally, however I also invested in the DVD for my grandson. It’s startling to come to the reality, how much US History has been just, negated, whitewashed and denied. Educational textbooks continue to omit, the reality of the history of slavery, reconstruction and the Diluted contributions of the African American experience. This was not a documentary, I could not just sit through, there were times, I had to pause. It’s an intensely emotional documentary. Dr. Gates used every scholar in AA and US history, descendants, and renowned academic institutions for in-depth explanations of how and why, the quest for equality was thwarted. Local, state, US governments were just so complicit in maintaining the US as a “white man’s” country..via disenfranchisement, judicatory, and domestic terrorism. Just an outstanding documentary.
A topic often talked about by people who obviously have never read a book about slavery in the American South is slavery. At least people who opine about this subject should watch this film. It was very accurate and helps to see the subject in its proper perspective. In short, life was, in some ways at least, worse for Blacks after the civil war. It took the civil rights movement for the country to finally treat American Blacks like Americans! A must watch! I plan to watch it again, something I rarely do!
The series does a good job of incorporating visual materials into the discussion of reconstruction. Certainly not a definitive history of this period, but an important contribution to our understanding of this sad time.
I watched part of this on PBS, and I wanted to watch the whole DVD. I also want to pass it on to a teacher friend of mine so he could use some of this as added material to teach. I don’t recall learning this when I went to school. I love to learn about history and the Civil War is near and dear to my heart. I was born in a Gettysburg, Pennsylvania so I lived on the Mason Dixon Line.