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The legacy of Reconstruction reverberates. So why aren't students learning about it? (Rebroadcast)

Frederick Douglass's image is projected on the Robert E. Lee Monument as people gather around in Richmond, Virginia.
Frederick Douglass's image is projected on the Robert E. Lee Monument as people gather around in Richmond, Virginia.

A new report from the nonprofit Zinn Education Project found that 45 states have insufficient or non-existent lesson coverage of Reconstruction in schools.

Historians warn that eclipsing the aftermath of the Civil War will lead students to be uninformed about the seeds of racial inequity today.

From TIME‘s coverage of the report:

They were looking for mentions of the Freedmen’s Bureau, formed to provide aid to the 4 million formerly enslaved people after the Civil War; for stories of Black people mobilizing for political participation and the establishment of clubs like the Union Leagues; for discussion of Northern industrialists’ power in the South and Black struggles for land ownership and labor rights. And they wanted to see the legacies of Reconstruction addressed, such as Reconstruction-era schools as a basis for public education today to the more sobering, like Jim Crow-era racism’s legacy in policing and prisons and disparities in health, wealth, and housing.

Overall, the researchers found K-12 social standards didn’t cover most of these topics. In interviews, teachers said they had barely learned about the period themselves and would need more professional development to feel comfortable teaching it in-depth. Educators were also concerned that the recent spate of state laws prohibiting the teaching of “divisive concepts” will limit instruction on the full history of racism in America.

We hear from experts about the legacy of Reconstruction. Plus, we share highlights from our tour of a special exhibit on Reconstruction at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Read the Transcript

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Kathryn Fink