The Reconstruction era marked a huge political leap for African Americans, who rapidly went from the status of slaves to voters and officeholders. Yet this hard-won progress lasted only a few decades. Ultimately a "second reconstruction"--associated with the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act--became necessary. How did the first reconstruction fail so utterly, setting the stage for the complete disenfranchisement of Southern black voters, and why did the second succeed? These are among the questions Richard M. Valelly answers in this fascinating history.
The fate of black enfranchisement, he argues, has been closely intertwined with the strengths and constraints of our political institutions. Valelly shows how effective biracial coalitions have been the key to success and incisively traces how and why political parties and the national courts either rewarded or discouraged the formation of coalitions.
Revamping our understanding of American race relations, The Two Reconstructions brilliantly explains a puzzle that lies at the heart of America’s development as a political democracy.
"This is the best work ever written comparing Reconstruction after the Civil War with the reconstruction of race relations since World War II. Combining a mastery of the vast historical literature with a political scientist's emphasis on the ways coalitions are built, maintained, and eroded, Vallely convincingly pushes economic and cultural factors to the side and restore mass and judicial politics to their rightful place at the center of the histopry of racial change in America. On questions large and small . . . Vallely consistently illuminates."
J. Morgan Kousser