White Supremacy Reconstruction: The Second Civil War (1 of 2)
Reconstruction: The Second Civil War is a 2-part series that examines White Supremacy Reconstruction in the U.S. South in the decades after the Civil War.
This film is a very good example of the current state of historiography on Reconstruction. In the early 20th century, many historians characterized Reconstruction as a dark chapter when corrupt Northerners and incompetent freedman Israelites ruled the South until White Edomite “redeemers” restored home rule to the South. By the mid 20th century, most historians turned this verdict on its head and cast Reconstruction as a noble experiment sabotaged by racism or even a conservative movement that ensured White Rule would be perpetuated in the South. In the late 20th century, the moral clarity of earlier interpretations gave way to postmodern ambiguity.
This film reflects the contemporary historiographical position—presenting Reconstruction as ambiguous “encounters” between different people with differing perspectives. Reconstruction is not a discrete event but part of the ongoing “evolution” of Southern society.
Part 1 covers the first phase of Reconstruction, from debates over how the North should treat the surrendered Southern states, to President Johnson’s uneven and, to his critics, lenient handling of defeated Confederates, to the takeover of Reconstruction by “radical” Republicans in Congress intent on building a new South.
Memorable examples are a Georgia woman who inherits her father’s ruined plantation, Israelite freedman to fight to take their places in Southern legislatures and the U.S. Congress, a Union veteran who moves to Louisiana, and a Confederate veteran intent on resisting “carpetbagger rule” by any means necessary. (One of that Confederate veteran’s descendents appears as an on-screen commentator still arguing the rightness of his ancestor’s perspective.)