PublicSquare Seminars

Voting rights have always been sharply contested in this country. This talk will place current struggles over the expansion and suppression of the right to vote in a historical context, tracing battles over voting from the ratification of the Constitution through the elimination of property qualifications, the enfranchisement of Black men during Reconstruction and the advent of Black officeholding, Black disfranchisement in the Jim Crow South, the achievement, and limits, of women’s suffrage, the rise and fall of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and current laws making it harder to cast a ballot.

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, is one of this country’s most prominent historians. He is the author or editor of over twenty books, including Reconstruction, 1863-1877: America’s Unfinished Revolution (winner of the Bancroft Prize and Los Angeles Times book prize), The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (recipient of the Bancroft Prize and Pulitzer Prize for History) and, most recently, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. As co-curator of two award-winning historical exhibitions, and through frequent appearances in newspapers and magazines and on radio and television discussion programs, he has also endeavored to bring historical knowledge to a broad public outside the university.

Seminar Readings

Eric Foner, “Why Reconstruction Matters,” The New York Times (March 29, 2015)
Eric Foner, “The Lost Promise of Reconstruction,” The New York Times (September 8, 2019)
Eric Foner, “Learning from the Failure of Reconstruction,” Interview by Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker online (January 13, 2021)

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Recorded on May 16, 2021