The Third Reconstruction: America’s Struggle for Racial Justice in the Twenty-First Century

Basic. Sept. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9781541600744. $27. HIST
Historian Joseph (Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values, LBJ Sch. of Public Affairs at Univ. of Texas at Austin; The Sword and the Shield) argues that the years between President Obama’s 2008 election and the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests constitute a period of progress toward racial equity, comparable to the Reconstruction after the Civil War . He theorizes that since the end of the Civil War, the United States has been involved in a struggle of reconstruction versus redemption policies. Advocates of reconstruction fight for a true multiracial democracy, while redemption adherents uphold white supremacy. The author illustrates this dichotomy by analyzing events during the Obama administration and comparing them to similar episodes during what he calls “the first Reconstruction” (the post-Civil War period from 1865 to 1877) and “the second Reconstruction” (the civil rights movement, from 1954 to 1968). These events encompass themes of citizenship, dignity, and leadership in the Black community, as well as the backlash to racial equity progress with the election of President Trump.
VERDICT Joseph centers the work of Black women and activists, while demonstrating that the current backlash to racial equity progress has deep roots in history. A compelling analysis of current events.
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