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Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Hour Four

Reconstruction | Part 2, Hour 2

The turn of the century is known as the ‘nadir’ of race relations in America, a period in which white supremacy held sway and racial violence spread across the South. Thirty years after the end of the Civil War, North and South had gone a long way toward reconciling under an American identity that cropped out black people and ignored their claims to the rights of citizenship under the Constitution. Reconstruction became a distant memory, and white supremacist propaganda began to change the story of the Civil War and its aftermath, glorifying the fallen heroes of the Confederacy and painting Reconstruction as a tragic mistake. Popular culture was devastatingly effective in propagating racist tropes in this era; from soap advertisements to minstrel shows, a flood of offensive imagery denied the humanity of African Americans. But even facing both physical and psychological oppression, African Americans found ways to fight back. With photography, theater, music, and writing, they began to put forward their vision of a “New Negro” for a new century.