Rethinking Reconstruction

Very few journalists are willing to take a heroic stand for the truth, particularly if that means taking down a sacred cow like W.E.B. DuBois.

You see, both the left and the right have an affinity for DuBois’s version of Reconstruction. Notice the love “conservatives” like Bill O’Reilly, Brian Kilmeade, and Dinesh D’Souza have for Frederick Douglass and the destruction brought on the South by Reconstruction. Or the loathing they have for John C. Calhoun.

Eric Foner might as well have written their opinions on the topic.

And by default, we can trace this back to DuBois. Foner admits he views Reconstruction through DuBois’s lens.

But as Helen Andrews points out in this fantastic piece at The American Conservative, DuBois’s work was nothing more than a bad polemic masquerading as history.

Sounds a lot like the 1619 Project and recent attempts at telling a more “complex” story of America.

Andrews is nothing short of heroic. You can’t take down DuBois without being called all kinds of names, but that is precisely all of her opponents have.

You see, DuBois based most of his work on hearsay and oral history. This isn’t invaluable, but you can’t hang your hat on it.

In contrast, the much maligned “Dunning School” produced two volumes of primary documents to buttress their work.

Who is more reliable? An openly politically partisan DuBois or historians (many of whom were Northern) who wanted to tell the story of Reconstruction?

I’ll stick with the Dunning School.

I discuss Reconstruction on episode 561 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

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