Henry Louis Gates Explores Reconstruction Via New Docuseries and Book

By Tiarra Mukherjee Apr 09, 2019

Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s new four-part documentary series, “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War,” delves into the years following the Civil War, during which the nation struggled with recovery from conflict and loss, rebuilding ruined cities and the unprecedented social transformation brought about by the end of slavery.

Per an announcement from PBS, the documentary looks at how African Americans grappled with the implications of their hard-won freedom. The documentary begins with the exuberant hope that accompanied the end of the war and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865 and ends in 1915, by which time Jim Crow and segregation were hardened facts of life. The series also explores the flowering of Black art, music, literature and culture as tools of resistance and the surge of political activism that launched the NAACP and other groups.

To coincide with the documentary, Gates also has a new book, “Stony the Road,” a history of the time between Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow. A recent NPR review describes the book as a “brilliant” exploration of how the hard-fought gains of African Americans were rolled back by embittered Southern Whites during this era, and how the gains of Reconstruction were systematically erased by the rise of White supremacists—a struggle that continues to this day.

“Reconstruction: America After the Civil War,” premieres tonight (April 9) on PBS and PBS.org at 9 p.m. EDT.