Washington History Seminar | The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic: Reconstruction, 1860-1920

Event Details

End: April 29, 2024

We are told that the present moment bears a strong resemblance to Reconstruction, when freedpeople and the federal government attempted to create an interracial democracy in the south after the Civil War. That effort was overthrown and serves as a warning today about violent backlash to the mere idea of black equality. In The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic, acclaimed historian Manisha Sinha expands our view beyond the usual temporal and spatial bounds of Reconstruction (1865–1877) to explain how the Civil War, the overthrow of Reconstruction, the conquest of the west, labor conflict in the north, Chinese exclusion, women’s suffrage, and the establishment of an overseas American empire were part of the same struggle between the forces of democracy and those of reaction. Highlighting the critical role of black people in redefining American citizenship and governance, Sinha’s book shows that Reconstruction laid the foundation of our democracy.

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Manisha Sinha is the Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut and a recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial fellowship in 2022. She is the 2024 President-elect of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. She received her Ph.D from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. She is the author of The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina which was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico and featured in The New York Times 1619 Project. Her recent book The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition, which won the Frederick Douglass, Avery Craven, James Rawley, and SHEAR Best Book prizes, was also long listed for the National Book Award for Non-Fiction.

Leon Fink is s Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago. at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of numerous books, including Undoing the Liberal World Order: Progressive Ideals and Political Realities Since World War II (2022), The Long Gilded Age: American Capitalism and the Promise of a New World Order (2015), Sweatshops at Sea: Merchant Seamen in the World’s First Globalized Industry, from 1812 to 2000 (2011) and The Maya of Morganton (2023; expanded new edition forthcoming 2024).

Elizabeth Sanders is an emeritus professor of government at Cornell University. She has taught and published on subjects including American political development, presidential politics, economic regulation, social movements, urban ecology, southern politics, and domestic influences on foreign policy. Her book on the politics of energy regulation won the Kammerer Prize of the American Political Science Assn. in 1982. Her 1999 book, “Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers, and the American State 1877-1917,”  was awarded the 2000 Greenstone Prize of the Politics and History Association.