Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Eric Foner’s new book centers on the monumental legislation of the Reconstruction era, which he frames as the birth of modern America. This book comes at a time when American culture and society is a mirror image of its 19th-century counterpart, plagued by aggressive racism, constant violence, and the explicit shortcomings of our federal government. Foner hones in on timeless questions like “Who should be entitled to citizenship?” and “How should ‘equal protection of the law’ be defined and guaranteed?” to expertly link our very troubled past to our equally troubled present.
“Gripping and essential.”—Jesse Wegman, New York Times
An authoritative history by the preeminent scholar of the Civil War era, The Second Founding traces the arc of the three foundational Reconstruction amendments from their origins in antebellum activism and adoption amidst intense postwar politics to their virtual nullification by narrow Supreme Court decisions and Jim Crow state laws. Today these amendments remain strong tools for achieving the American ideal of equality, if only we will take them up.
About the Author
Eric Foner is the author of many award-winning books on the Civil War and Reconstruction, including The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He is DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University.
Disciplined, powerful and moving.… [An] important book. — Lincoln Caplan
Lucid and succinct. — John Fabian Witt
Sometimes a book makes you reconsider a subject you’ve studied all of your adult life. — Adam Liptak, Supreme Court correspondent
Brisk but far-reaching.… [C]opies of this book should be spread around the capital, because the battles of contemporary Washington are but a second act to the struggles prompted by Foner’s Second Founding.
— David M. Shribman
The Second Founding… demonstrates [Foner’s] talent at unearthing insights about the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, in particular how Americans defined and acted on the ideals of freedom and democracy.… [He writes] in what another eminent historian, Christopher Lasch, called ‘plain style’: direct and vivid prose without a trace of specialized language, which anyone with a passing interest in the subject can read, learn from, and enjoy.
— Michael Kazin
As the dean of Reconstruction studies, Foner is the ideal scholar to produce a history of the three amendments added to the Constitution during the period—amendments so powerful as to justify the book’s title. — James Oakes
Mr. Foner makes his case with brio and erudition. — Fergus M. Bordewich
In this moment, indeed in any, Eric Foner’s new book is uncommonly valuable. — W. Fitzhugh Brundage
With The Second Founding, Foner offers a taut, absorbing companion piece to his magisterial Reconstruction, published three decades ago.
— Hamilton Cain
[The Second Founding] should land on the desk of every federal jurist.… [It] presents a sobering picture of the use and misuse of history in legal battles over race. But it is hopeful too. Change is possible with more truthful and expansive historical knowledge.