• We The People Podcast

The Promise and the Thwarting of Reconstruction

November 26, 2019

This week, we’re sharing a past program on the Civil War and Reconstruction and public memory. Leading civil war historians Eric Foner, Thavolia Glymph, and Kate Masur explore the questions: How do we define Reconstruction? What was that period like politically and economically, for ordinary Americans and for the country’s leaders? How can we better understand the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments by contextualizing them in the history of Reconstruction? And how does that history connect to modern issues surrounding racial inequality, Confederate monuments, and more. Sherilynn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, moderates.

This program was presented at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall Institute.

If you enjoyed this constitutional conversation and want to hear more from the panelists, please check out their other appearances on Live at America’s Town Hall:



Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, specializes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and 19th-century America. He is one of only two persons to serve as President of the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, and Society of American Historians. He has also been the curator of several museum exhibitions, including the prize-winning “A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln,” at the Chicago Historical Society. His book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery won the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and Lincoln prizes for 2011.

Thavolia Glymph, professor of history and law at Duke Unversity, studies the U.S. South with a focus on nineteenth century social history.  She is the author of Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household and The Women's Fight: The Civil War's Battles for Home, Freedom, and Nation. She is co-editor of two volumes of the award-winning documentary series, Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867 and is currently completing a book manuscript titled African American Women and Children Refugees in the Civil War: A History the Making of Freedom supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. She is also vice president of the Southern Historical Association.  

Kate Masur specializes in the history of the 19th-century United States, focusing on how Americans grappled with questions of race and equality after the abolition of slavery in both the North and South. Masur, a faculty affiliate of the Department of African American Studies, is author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C. (2010) and numerous articles on emancipation and black politics during and after the Civil War. With Gregory P. Downs (UC-Davis), she co-edited The World the Civil War Made (2015), a collection of essays that charts new directions in the study of the post-Civil War Era. She was part of the editorial team that created Reconstruction: The Official National Park Service Handbook, and co-authored The Era of Reconstruction, 1861-1900, a National Historic Landmark Theme Study published in July 2017.

Sherilynn Ifill is the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and is the second woman to lead the organization. She began her career as a Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, before joining the staff of the LDF as an Assistant Counsel in 1988, where she litigated voting rights. In 1993 she joined the faculty at University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore and taught civil procedure and constitutional law for two decades. In 2013, Ifill was invited back to the Legal Defense Fund – this time to lead the organization as its 7th Director-Counsel. She is author of On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century among many other works.

Additional Resources

This episode was engineered by Dave Stotz and produced by Jackie McDermott.

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