Any understanding of the United States has to be based on an understanding of the Civil War.

In one of his appearances in the well-known Civil War documentary by Ken Burns, the historian and novelist Shelby Foote commented, “Any understanding of this nation has to be based and I mean really based on the understanding of Civil War.” I was reminded of this assertion when I listened to an interview with the historian Eric Foner in which he discussed his book “The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.” He was interviewed by Ed Ayers, Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and president emeritus at the University of Richmond, during the 10/11/19 episode of Backstory, a weekly podcast. Foner’s book focuses on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution, passed in 1865, 1868, and 1870 respectively, and known as the Reconstruction Amendments. Many controversial issues of today trace their origin back to these amendments. The Fourteenth Amendment, for example, guarantees birthright citizenship.

Click on the title below to listen to this program, or download a podcast to listen to at your convenience:

How Reconstruction Transformed the Constitution


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