Reconstruction in Public History and Memory at the Sesquicentennial: A Roundtable Discussion

The public memory of Reconstruction has long been a complex and fraught subject in the United States. But where do we stand now, and what will Reconstruction’s sesquicentennial entail? What issues confront scholars, civil rights advocates, public history practitioners, and teachers devoted to deepening conversations about Reconstruction? What opportunities does Reconstruction’s sesquicentennial present?

The following discussion of those questions took place from May 2 to May 22, 2016, through a secure webpage that allowed the moderator and the participants to post comments and questions in sequence. The moderator and the journal’s editors edited the completed conversation for length, in consultation with the participants. This final version has been condensed slightly for the readers’ benefit, while maintaining the open-ended and free-flowing nature of the original conversation.

David M. Prior, assistant professor of history at the University of New Mexico, served as moderator.

Nancy Bercaw is a curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Beverly Bond is associate professor of history at the University of Memphis and the codirector of the Memories of a Massacre: Memphis in 1866 project.

Thomas J. Brown is professor history at the University of South Carolina and has served on Historic Columbia’s interpretation committee for the Woodrow Wilson Family Home since 2006.

Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and the author of Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, among many other works.

Jennifer Taylor is staff attorney at the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit civil rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama.

Salamishah Tillet is associate professor of English and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post–Civil Rights Imagination.

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