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Reconstruction: America After the Civil War

Saturday, July 4 at 4 p.m. — Henry Louis Gates, Jr. presents the definitive history of the years following the American Civil War.

Reconstruction: America After the Civil War

More about Reconstruction: America After the Civil War

The film takes a broad view of the Reconstruction era and its aftermath, beginning with the hopeful moment of war’s end and emancipation in 1865, and carrying through to 1915, when the nation was fully entrenched in Jim Crow segregation. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the nation was devastated by death and destruction. Members of the U.S. Congress endeavored to reunite North and South while granting citizenship rights to newly freed African Americans. Millions of former slaves and free black people sought out their rightful place as equal citizens under the law. The dream of an interracial democracy was brief, and the broken promises of the Reconstruction era haunt the country to this day.

The first half of the documentary centers on the pivotal decade following the Civil War rebellion, charting black progress and highlighting the accomplishments of the many political leaders who emerged to usher their communities into this new era of freedom. The series’ second half looks beyond that hopeful decade, when the arc of history bent backwards. Tracing the unraveling of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow segregation in the closing years of the 19th century, the film also look at the myriad ways in which black people continued to acquire land, build institutions and strengthen communities amidst increasing racial violence and repression.

Watch a preview of Reconstruction: America After the Civil War