The Second Founding:
How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution
in conversation with HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR.
This event includes a book signing
September 19, 2019
(Doors at 6:30)
First Parish Church
1446 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
Harvard Book Store and Mass Humanities welcome ERIC FONER—the preeminent, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the Civil War era—for a discussion of his latest book, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. He will be joined in conversation by renowned scholar, literary critic, and filmmaker HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR.
About The Second Founding
The Declaration of Independence announced equality as an American ideal, but it took the Civil War and the subsequent adoption of three constitutional amendments to establish that ideal as American law. The Reconstruction amendments abolished slavery, guaranteed all persons due process and equal protection of the law, and equipped black men with the right to vote. They established the principle of birthright citizenship and guaranteed the privileges and immunities of all citizens. The federal government, not the states, was charged with enforcement, reversing the priority of the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In grafting the principle of equality onto the Constitution, these revolutionary changes marked the second founding of the United States.
Eric Foner’s compact, insightful history traces the arc of these pivotal amendments from their dramatic origins in pre–Civil War mass meetings of African-American “colored citizens” and in Republican party politics to their virtual nullification in the late nineteenth century. A series of momentous decisions by the Supreme Court narrowed the rights guaranteed in the amendments, while the states actively undermined them. The Jim Crow system was the result. Again, today, there are serious political challenges to birthright citizenship, voting rights, due process, and equal protection of the law. Like all great works of history, this one informs our understanding of the present as well as the past: knowledge and vigilance are always necessary to secure our basic rights.
Praise for The Second Founding
“Eric Foner has done it again: his concise, superbly researched, beautifully written history of the Civil War amendments chronicles a revolution in law and moral sensibility.” —David W. Blight, Yale University, author of the Pulitzer prize–winning Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
“How are voter suppression, mass incarceration, and jeopardy to the American-born children of undocumented immigrants possible in the land of the free? Eric Foner brings his masterful knowledge of Reconstruction to illuminate the transformative constitutional amendments following the Civil War, and powerfully conveys the ongoing struggles over their meaning.” —Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University, author of In Brown’s Wake: Legacies of America’s Educational Landmark
Tickets are available online only at harvard.com and harvardbookstore.eventbrite.com. All tickets for this event include a $5 coupon for use in the bookstore. Pre-sale tickets include a copy of The Second Founding. Books bundled with pre-sale tickets may only be picked up at the venue the night of the event, and cannot be picked up in-store beforehand.
Tickets are non-refundable and non-returnable.
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, cross Mass. Ave. and look for the newsstand called Crimson Corner. Turn right and proceed north along Mass. Ave. going toward the Cambridge Common. You will pass the Harvard Coop, Bank of America, and CVS. The First Parish Church is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Church St. Please enter through the front door of the church.
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Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.
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