« Back to Blog


Reconstruction: America after the Civil War

By Natalyn Klump



“Our film will tell the real story of Reconstruction, honoring the struggle of the African Americans who fought their way out of slavery. But we will also tell the tragic story of the sustained and often violent pushback against Reconstruction’s determination to secure equal rights for black people and the subsequent rise of white supremacy leading to the implementation of Jim Crow segregation.” –Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Reconstruction: America after the Civil War, a ground breaking new four-hour documentary, presents the definitive story of one of the most important, yet least understood, chapters in American history.

It is executive produced and hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, who is renowned for producing thought-provoking documentary films and programs including Black American Since MLK: And Still I Rise and Finding Your Roots.

The film begins with a hopeful moment – the end of the Civil War. “In 1865, 90 percent of black men in the South were slaves. Two years later, 80 percent of them had voted,” Gates said. The high turnout of African American voters upended state politics and the growing political clout and social mobility of African Americans was backed by a U.S. military presence that protected their rights. The nascent Reconstruction was showing progress.

As African Americans fought their way out of slavery, an increasing number acquired land, built schools and started businesses. They challenged the nation to live up to the founding ideals of democracy, freedom and equality.

This pivotal decade of progress was halted as the backlash hit. The second half of the series examines the period when the arc of history bent backwards. It became increasingly clear that many Southern white people were not willing to accept this new social order.

As Reconstruction unraveled, the rise of Jim Crow segregation increased in the closing years of the nineteenth century. The Southern states drastically restricted the vote while drawing a stark color line that divided white and black America.

The film also reveals that in spite of the backlash, African American art, music, literature and culture flourished as tools of resistance and civil rights organizations were born. 

The film will take you to historic sites across the South and introduce you to leading historians, writers and activists who will present new insights into various aspects of Reconstruction.

“More than 150 years later, this struggle continues,” Gates concluded.

Reconstruction: America after the Civil War begins Tuesday, April 9 at 9 p.m. on SCETV.

Join us for a sneak preview! 

The ETV Endowment and SCETV invite you to join us in Beaufort, Thursday, April 4, for a sneak preview of this new mini-series. Immediately following the screening there will be a panel discussion moderated by SCETV’s Beryl Dakers. Panelists include Millicent Brown, Damon Fordham and Walter Edgar. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are strongly encouraged. Find out more on our Events page.