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Conservatives sometimes accuse the academic left of ignoring the good in American history and emphasizing the horrors. But in some respects, the typical telling of the American story does not focus enough on the horrors.

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Michael Gerson

As I recall from my distant youth, American history texts dealt with the run-up to the Civil War, then the war itself, then the failure of Reconstruction, before moving on to the Gilded Age and progressive reform.

But the failure of Reconstruction was not just a disembodied fact but a planned and ruthless act of sabotage. As Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s new book, “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow,” effectively reminds us, the period of history after the Civil War involved a violent campaign to reverse the social, political and economic outcomes of the conflict. And this effort — which southerners called “Redemption” — was successful in almost every respect.

With the defeat of the Confederacy, the federal government’s enforcement of civil and voting rights was beginning to work a revolution. Hundreds of thousands of African-American citizens registered to vote and eventually elected an estimated two thousand black officials at every level of government.

The Freedmen’s Bureau helped former slaves in matters ranging from land rights to education. Families divided by slavery were reunited. Workers transitioned into a wage system. The process was difficult but hopeful.

The white south, however, was having none of it.

A broad counterattack was mounted to undo the work of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. This involved a campaign of murder and intimidation to disenfranchise black Republicans and the imposition of economic systems (sharecropping and convict labor) that effectively recreated the conditions of slavery.

By 1875 — just a decade after the war ended — white rule was reestablished in all but three southern states. At first, Republicans such as President Ulysses S. Grant tried to help southern blacks through armed interventions by federal troops. But this policy proved politically unpopular and was abandoned.

The re-imposition of white rule was a bloody, unpunished historical crime.

“The depth of the reaction against the demands that the Negro have the right to vote,” Gates argues, “and the sheer range of racist vehemence and terrorism that arose to neutralize that right ... is stunning to contemplate.”

Between 1868 and 1871, an estimated 400 African-Americans were lynched across the South. About 30 were executed on a single day in Meridian, Mississippi. The killers — often roving bands of former Confederate soldiers — acted with total impunity. By 1890, Ben Tillman, who would serve as governor of South Carolina, was crowing: “The triumph of Democracy and white supremacy over mongrelism and anarchy is most complete.”

Those interested in this period will find Eric Foner’s “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution” more thorough, and Nicholas Lemann’s “Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War” more emotionally engaging, but Gates’ valuable book goes further.

He recounts the massive, seemingly coordinated betrayal of black citizens following Redemption by every white institution. How the Supreme Court gutted civil rights protections. How the scientific community justified white supremacy with bogus research. How white churches ignored or blessed oppression. How the world of advertising adopted demeaning black stereotypes to sell soap and cereal. How the world of movies and literature popularized the myth of the Lost Cause, in which Reconstruction was a period of carpetbagger oppression and black people really longed for the security of the plantation.

Gates is especially insightful in revealing how black people, after their constitutional rights were stolen, attempted to reassert their dignity in non-political ways. Through Booker T. Washington’s version of self-help. Or by cultivating the achievements of W.E.B Dubois’ “talented tenth.” Or through the artistic excellence of the Harlem Renaissance. Or through pan-African pride.

Ultimately, Gates argues that Frederick Douglass got closest to the truth — that there is no path to pride and equality that does not include political power, particularly voting rights. This was the main theme of the NAACP and, eventually, of Martin Luther King Jr. It is a tribute to the importance of justice as the first human need.

The denial of justice recounted by “Stony the Road” was every bit as bad as apartheid.

It was not just racism, but the systematic attempt to destroy — through violence, threats and mockery — the dignity, political rights and social standing of blacks in America. It was far worse than anything I was taught in history classes.

Yet only by knowing this period can we understand how white supremacy became the broadly accepted, and sadly durable, ideology of white America.

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Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson can be reached at


(44) comments


In reply to PhysicsisFun: "So you say getting an ID is pretty easy. How do you know this? Have you done a survey of people who do not have an ID and investigated how difficult it was for them to get one, or are you just taking the word of Republicans. I can tell you based on my difficulty getting a birth certificate it is not that easy. You are twisted in that you believe things with nothing but your prejudices to support your belief. "

I've clipped off the rest of your rant because it isn't worth answering other than to say YOUR beliefs and prejudices have you convinced that the requirement for ID is comparable in any way to the violence and obviously racist Jim Crow laws of the south. That notion is absurd.

I believe presenting identification at the polls is good governance. Voting is a right reserved for citizens. Presenting ID to exercise that right seems perfectly reasonable, in my opinion. You disagree. Fair enough.

It is EASY to get a voter ID card and it is completely free!

Let's deal in facts. You've repeated the story about the difficulty you had getting your birth certificate to obtain a passport. The fact is: You do not need a birth certificate to get a voter ID.


Regarding birth certificates or other forms of documentation...
"If you don't have all or any of these, you can still get an ID for voting. Just bring what you have to the DMV, fill out two forms (form MV3004, and form MV3012), and you will get a photo ID document in the mail that you can use in time for voting. "

If this is too difficult for ANYONE, I've provided two FREE resources in previous comments where anyone can go for assistance if they need it. They will guide anyone through this process, provide free legal assistance if it is required, free transportation and THEY will pay for the costs of obtaining any required supporting documentation.
If you do not believe me or do not wish to visit that web site, you may call them at 844-338-8743. Further, if you believe so many individuals are being denied their right to vote for lack of the required ID, perhaps you'd consider volunteering? Give someone a ride who needs it? Perhaps not...

The DMV will provide a longer list of resources for those few persons who may have special circumstances and cannot seem to manage this process on their own. If you don't believe me, go there and ask or call them!


Well, crank, if you own a car or live in a household that has a car and licensed driver at your disposal, it certainly would only be a minor inconvenience to find a day when you can get to a DMV office and apply for a voter i.d. It becomes much more problematic, however, for poor people and the elderly. If we are going to be honest and honestly want all people who are eligible to vote to be able to do so, we are going to have to make a special effort -- if all of a sudden these types of i.d.s are required -- to make sure it is a very easy process to acquire the i.d. How about, for instance, doing this at the polling place on the day of the election? It doesn't appear to me that there is any complicated vetting process in the process that you describe that would make it necessary for people to go to a remote DMV office before the day of the election. But of course there is no evidence -- none, nada -- anyway, that there is rampant vote fraud, anyway. The point is to make it easy for people to exercise their right to vote, not to make those the least ability to do so to have to leap through hoops in order to exercise that right. But certainly that seems to be the point of the Republicans pushing this nonsense.


It is easy! All of it... Asked and answered.

Voter ID does not = Jim Crow.


I and others on here learned some time ago that your word is not to be trusted, crank, so simply saying "asked and answered" is a dodge that has more holes in it than an old screen door.


You and Physiscs have been presented with an opportunity to investigate yourself...a voter ID is easy to obtain. Resources and phone numbers. Regarding whether or not you can trust my word... this is a typical dodge from you. #adhominen As I've said, if you don't trust me, verify it for yourself. If you, oldhomey, are too paranoid about being tracked on the internet to visit those links, call the phone numbers.

My original comment: Voter ID does not = Jim Crow. Liberals who make that comparison are silly and absurd.


crank, do you think anybody would ever open up a link that you offer on these boards again, after you have admitted that you try to trace the people who use your links to find out their identities? I have explained to you that, given what the DMV says it needs to do to issue voter i.d. cards, there is absolutely no reason why this could not be done on election day in the polling place. That would solve a problem that is no problem in the first place. If Voter ID does not equated with Jim Crow laws, then why is the solution not as simple as the one I have posited?


I've anticipated this tired little tactic of yours and already answered it, old fussy. the phone numbers or type in the URLs for the DMV as provided. Google Vote Riders and see if they're legit. #bickering It seems you're the only one afraid, little fella, perhaps because you're the only one with sock-puppet identities you'd prefer to keep secret.

Back to the topic... Since you already agree it is already easy to get an ID, why do you persist with this non-stop bickering? The DMV along with volunteer organizations I've already provided will help ANYONE who cannot seem to manage the process, simple as it is...and free. Jim Crow??? Absurd!

In response to your 'solution', one obvious issue with doing this at the polling place on election day is they are not the DMV. Most poll workers are volunteers. The polling places are not equipped for it and lack the computers and staff to also process and issue IDs on election day.

C'mon now... Even PhysicsIsFun has very likely looked at the info I've provided. It's easy and free!


Oh, you anticipated my tactic? That would seem, crank, that you are somewhat paranoid about me. No reason to be. I am not trying to track you down to find out who you really are, nor am I trying to glean any information about the computers you use. I am asking you to use your common sense. Poor people, old people, college students often don't have easy access to transportation, and getting to a government office that like a DMV, often not in the handiest of locations for people lacking cars, can be a daunting thing that takes time to arrange, and then they look at the list of documentation they must gather, it makes it even more daunting, particularly if they have to rely on the generosity of somebody else to get them there and to wait for them. Why should we make them unnecessarily go through all of this when they could much more easily take care of this business on election day at the polling place? That would encourage people in the best way to get out and vote, to exercise their right to vote. Will you answer that, or are you too filled with dread and anticipation of hearing from me? I don't bite. I try to just be honest. You ought to try it. It makes life easier that way. Jim Crow. Yes. There is no need for this law in the first place, it is simply there to discourage certain cohorts of people from voting.


No, dumb dumb... I know how you love to spout off asking the same questions and while ignoring answers already provided. You did it again here. Scroll back a few messages in the thread and read. I already provided phone numbers and explained they were there specifically for YOU.


And the racist disenfranchisement of voters continues today through republican gerrymandering and voter suppression. And, more recently, republicans have found a way to profit on private prisons and the incarceration of huge numbers of Black people in the name of "law and order." American racism is alive and well and supported by the wingnut screechers who make regular appearances on these pages.


You are so right dudesickle . The Repubics are ,at least ,not really different,at all, from the United Klans of America or the White Citizens Council,nor are they all that different, from Wisconsin"s own Waukesha Neo Nazi and Appleton" John Birchers.
I wish they"d come to my Wisco city., we"d have a party.


What a massive prejudicial statement. What's next, want to share your sweeping and ignorant opinion on all white people?


In your displaced heart know he's right. (Me). A truly hard gig to admit, even for an upper aged Geezer as your-own-self. That a drag man, ain"t it?


I'm in my mid 30s, genius. But keep stereotyping and generalizing, it's truly hilarious to watch the pot call the kettle black.


While hateful bigots remain, how far we’ve come. Then the silly trib-libs call the requirement to show ID when voting a Jim Crow laws... Silly, isn’t it?


No, crank, it is not silly when you peel away the reality of the so-called "i.d." laws. They are set up to frustrate people of limited means and resources to go through the steps of obtaining the i.d. cards. It is just one of many little measures that the GOP is trying to put into place to discourage and prevent people of reduced means -- most often people of color, the young and the elderly -- from voting. That is hateful, and that is bigoted. Just how far do you think we have come?


Considering there are numerous volunteer organizations offering assistance for any of the very few people who has the right to vote with "limited means and resources" who may claim for whatever reason they cannot get an ID....including free transportation to wherever they need to go, pro-bono legal services and paying for any cost incurred? Yes, silly trib-lib, your claims that Voter ID is hateful and bigoted and comparable in any way to the Jim Crow laws of the south is quite silly.

If one has difficulty getting the necessary documentation, the registrar has a ready list of resources to provide help. Here is one such organization which operates in several states including Wisconsin:

Even I, a Republican, have volunteered giving people (perhaps poor, elderly, a bike with a flat tire or *gasp* even minorities) rides to the polls and back home again on election day as organized by the local League of Women Voters. (This is another organization which helps people get Voter ID when they say they cannot.)


Republicans are always quick to mention volunteer organizations in place of good governance. How about we just have laws that work for everyone not just the wealthy and well connected. How about our government making efforts to get as many of our citizens to the ballot box on election day instead of looking for ways to keep people away? You know trying to making voting easier rather than harder. I can tell you for a fact. It was very hard for me to get a copy of my birth certificate so that I could get a passport. I was born in rural South Dakota in the late 40s. I was a person with 2 college degrees and a pretty good working knowledge of bureaucracy. I can not imagine how hard it is for some. Voter ID is not about preventing the nonexistent crime of in person voter fraud. It is about repressing the Democrat vote. Your Republican legislators even say it out loud.


I believe Voter ID is good governance. As stated, obtaining the necessary ID is pretty easy, if you're a citizen...and free. Considering the investigations made into how the Russians may have influenced and/or hacked our elections, it strikes me as disingenuous to claim requiring identification isn't good governance.

As I've stated, it isn't comparable to the Jim Crow laws of the south as many silly trib-libs like oldhomey have suggested. Given the subject matter of the book about which Gerson has written, the notion that requiring someone to present an ID is hateful and bigoted is QUITE absurd notion, in fact.


You believe it's good governance, because you are a twisted little man.


And....there we have it! The true nature of a liberal revealed when someone disagrees with their opinion.


Physics makes a valid point, that is more important to have a government that works to assure everybody has the ability to exercise their right to vote, not to put up restrictions designed to screen out as many people as possible from voting cohorts that one party thinks will vote against them. Volunteer groups are fine, we should applaud their efforts, but they cannot deal with corruption on a massive scale. And that is what this is. You may even assist a "gasp!" minority voter to get to the polls in La Crosse. Would you be willing to do that in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and other states that are stripping minorities of their right to vote once again on a massive scale? Can you or anybody else come up with a shred of evidence that these places were fraught with vote fraud before the Republicans dreamed up this new voter i.d. law? D, can you show us how this has been a huge problem with Hispanic non-citizens in your beloved southern California? These allegations have been raked over and investigated thoroughly for years, and there has never been any evidence whatsoever of vote fraud by illegal voters. There has been plenty of evidence of it on the part of political parties running up votes not by illegal voters, but by political operatives tinkering with outcomes behind the curtains in the polling places. And that includes both parties.


And crank, I would not be so fast to sneer at what somebody else would do when they disagree with you. We already know what you are willing to do, don't we? It isn't just an unkind word, you try to track them on the internet to see if you can find something you can use against them. And when that fails, you don't care, because you simply lie about what you say you found. Do I need to cite a good example of you doing that?


Would it be good governance to add more steps for acquiring and maintaining a firearm? We need that to exercise a right. How is voter ID any different? Or are you going to defend those poor, crazy murderers who can easily access a gun?


I can't imagine the illegal immigrant mobs in SoCal having any desire to partake in a process that aligns them with the virtues and culture of this country. The whole point is to make those areas "theirs", not to participate in blending in with "us".


Sure... Homey. Are you going to talk about all those times you claimed you had found people including me using multiple accounts but offered no supporting evidence? Or... more recently how I suspected you and your sock puppet(s) came from the same drawer. I posted and you followed several web links to my servers where I collected information showing you are the one doing this. The analytics tools on my server tagged you using more than one account here.

How many paragraphs do you think you can waste telling your lies and calling me names while trying to deny this con you've been caught running?


crank, I believe the only time I caught somebody using multiple screen names on these posts is when I caught you arguing with me under two different screen names, but you skrewed up, answering under one identity when the question was addressed to the other. I don't recall the other identity you were using at the time, but it had "ona" in the name as a reference to Onalaska. As for the rest of your 10:58pm post, Number One, there is a strange, desperate sort of paranoia in the act of somebody on these boards trying to track down others on these boards by means of posting an internet link so that you can try to follow it to a specific computer. That is you, big fellah. Number Two, I have no idea how expert or inexpert you are in your technical knowledge for computer sleuthing, but it surely failed you in this instance. You could not have found me to have different identities because Iyam who Iyam. oldhomey. One computer account, one screen name for these posts. If you think you have evidence otherwise, you had better lay it out here or simply accept that you have once again been exposed for what you so often are on these posts: a liar. Analytics, indeed. You need an analyst, but not one for computers.


D, are you trying to equate the possession of a gun and the possession of the right to vote? How does that equate? What a strange mind you have.


Deflecting, little fella. Change the subject? You offer up these pathetic conspiracy theories about your 'enemies' like a slimy little squid shoots ink into the water. #distraction

Recently, especially, it seems to be your thing to accuse anyone who disagrees with you to be using a new screen name while doing this yourself. Ever the narcissist, when evidence was provided showing you were completely wrong you simply deflected rather than acknowledging your mistake/lie. You reject the mere possibility of being wrong. Now you're doing it again, little fella, denying it and accusing me and others of doing what you've been doing. Why don't you just drop the charade and stop?


Hmm. Show me, please, crank, where I have deflected or ducked anything in this string. I think every time I have posted I have posted in response to the issues brought up either by the columnist or by commenters in this string. Or are you trying to deflect from being shown again not to be dealing in truths by accusing me of what you are doing? It is all right here on this particular string. Have at me, big fellah.


Your comment at 9:59, oldhomey. Completely off topic and 100% ad hominem.

#oldhomeybickering #standardtactic #offtopic


So you say getting an ID is pretty easy. How do you know this? Have you done a survey of people who do not have an ID and investigated how difficult it was for them to get one, or are you just taking the word of Republicans. I can tell you based on my difficulty getting a birth certificate it is not that easy. You are twisted in that you believe things with nothing but your prejudices to support your belief. Republicans have admitted on camera that Voter ID Laws are designed to suppress the vote of left leaning citizens. That is their purpose, and they are successful at doing it. They are similar to Jim Crow Laws in the south in that they were designed to prevent people from voting. The people in charge did not want to lose their standing by giving the vote to the opposition. It is great that you drive people to the polls, but that is not the issue here. Citizens are prevented from voting by a law with is specifically designed to do just that.


That's the precise equation I'm making. They are both Constitutional rights. Guns require Ids and background checks. In fact, they should require more.


So I am off topic, crank? Let me refresh your memory. You stated:

" crank May 7, 2019 7:43pm

"And....there we have it! The true nature of a liberal revealed when someone disagrees with their opinion."

And I replied:

"oldhomey May 7, 2019 9:59pm

"And crank, I would not be so fast to sneer at what somebody else would do when they disagree with you. We already know what you are willing to do, don't we? It isn't just an unkind word, you try to track them on the internet to see if you can find something you can use against them. And when that fails, you don't care, because you simply lie about what you say you found. Do I need to cite a good example of you doing that?"

Ahem. I think it was you who brought up the "topic" of people who respond badly to others who disagree with them, and I simply pointed out that of all people to feign being indignant about this, you certainly should not be one of them. And don't you think you are misusing the term ad hominem in this case?


Track them on the internet??? No, old fussy, I simply confirmed my suspicions that you are using multiple accounts here. While I could use what I know to track you down and reveal more about you, I haven’t. Dozing is what Democrats do to you do high school students who wear MAGA hats. My aim was to confirm you are engaging in a deception of which you accuse others. If it bothers you that I’ve revealed this, too bad. Perhaps you’ll stop but it doesn’t matter. As you were quick to point out, there is no rule against this practice. I just find it a tiny bit pathetic that you feel the need to and then dare to claim it is others who are doing this.

Back to the topic at hand, as I recall, you’re one of the pathetic liberals who hold this absurd notion that Voter ID laws are comparable to the Jim Crow laws and violence in the post civil war south. I’ll repeat.... that comparison is absurd..


crank, you certainly seem to enjoy making somewhat menacing claims about your prowess as an internet whiz who can track down those of us on these boards with whom you find yourself disagreeing. You do a far less credible job of showing what you claim to know about any of us to have any truth to it at all. You continue to claim that I have multiple accounts, I guess meaning that I use more than one identity on these boards to make comments. It simply is not the case. However, if you can show some credible evidence that I am using more than one identity here, I will remove myself from commenting here permanently. If you can't, I would hope you would at least acknowledge you have no such evidence. How is that for a deal? Put up or shut up.


Because putting up those details, oldhomey, is something I said I would not do. I will not post your IP address or your location or your name or any other details. Though you call my claims “menacing”, I don’t see how anyone but you could believe that is true given the fact I said I had not and will not make additional attempts to determine your real identity nor would I Dox you. Doxxing is what liberals do...I confirmed my suspicions and that’s enough, sock puppeteer. Why don’t you stop?

Voter ID is not comparable to Jim Crow laws.


Hmm. So you tell me "I will not post your IP address or your location or your name or any other details. Though you call my claims “menacing”, I don’t see how anyone but you could believe that is true given the fact I said I had not and will not make additional attempts to determine your real identity nor would I Dox you. Doxxing is what liberals do...I confirmed my suspicions and that’s enough, sock puppeteer. Why don’t you stop?"

And you tell me that is not menacing? Just how am I or anybody else on these boards supposed to take that -- that you can track down people's actual identities, and even imply, as you have done so strongly here, that you did that to me? If you did it to me, however, you would have also found out that I am not connected to any other person you have tried to link me to on these boards. So I have caught you in yet another lie. If you are not lying, prove it. Expose who I am. Show the rest of the world what a stand up,, moral, principled guy you are. Big fella.


And, crank, you STILL don't seem to know what the term "doxing" means.


Post the definition, oldhomey.


This is doxing, crank. I should sound familiar to you, because it is what you are engaged in with me, by your own account:

"Doxing (from dox, abbreviation of documents)[1] or doxxing[2][3] is the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting private or identifying information (especially personally identifying information) about an individual or organization.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

"The methods employed to acquire this information include searching publicly available databases and social media websites (like Facebook), hacking, and social engineering. It is closely related to Internet vigilantism and hacktivism.

"Doxing may be carried out for various reasons, including to aid law enforcement, business analysis, risk analytics, extortion, coercion, inflicting harm, harassment, online shaming, and vigilante justice.[9][10]"


OK, oldhomey...

Now that you have given the definition, SHOW me where I have revealed ANY private, personally identifying information about you or your identity. You can't... In fact, I specifically stated that I would NOT seek out or share any of that sort of information about you.

You just don't like the fact that you've been caught doing what you routinely claim others are doing. You keep trying to make this about me but have a peek in the mirror, you pathetic little fella. #kingofkings #getoffmyboards


I hope this column does not age out tonight so that my answer is lost, but no matter, because I will preserve it and bring it up again for the benefit of warning others of you. Let me refresh your memory that you strongly imply you know a lot of personal information about me, including my name. If that is not menacing in this context of free exchange of ideas and opinions on a discussion board in which anonymity is supposed to be guaranteed, I don't know what is, crank. This is what you said:

"crank May 12, 2019 6:22am
"Because putting up those details, oldhomey, is something I said I would not do. I will not post your IP address or your location or your name or any other details. Though you call my claims “menacing”, I don’t see how anyone but you could believe that is true given the fact I said I had not and will not make additional attempts to determine your real identity nor would I Dox you. Doxxing is what liberals do...I confirmed my suspicions and that’s enough, sock puppeteer. Why don’t you stop?"


Implied???? No, stupid, I said precisely the opposite. Even after posting the definition of the word, it is YOU who has no idea what it means. You really should get more sleep, little fella. It seems like you need it.

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