Reconstruction did have a lot to do with the future path of American development — mainly in its race relations, but it was a tremendous missed occasion for the country to set off on a road toward greater equality and greater justice than really was execute in the late 19th, early 20th centuries. (Foner 1988) In the generation after the end of Reconstruction, the Southern states deprived blacks of their right to vote and ordered that public and private facilities of all kinds be separated by race. Until job opportunities opened in the North in the 20th twentieth century, spurring a mass migration out of the South, most blacks continue locked in a system of political powerlessness and economic inequality. A hostile and biased historical interpretation of Reconstruction as a tragic era of black supremacy became part of the justification for the South’s new system of white supremacy.
Not until the mid-twentieth century would the nation again try to come to terms with the political and social agenda of Reconstruction. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s is often called the Second Reconstruction. Its achievements were far-reaching. Today, racial segregation has been banned, blacks vote on the same terms as whites, and more black Americans hold public office than ever before. Like the first Reconstruction, however, the second failed to erase the economic disparity that originated in slavery and were reinforced by decades of segregation. Many black Americans have pierced the middle class, but unemployment and poverty remain far higher than among whites.
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