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The Second Founding

How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution
Written by: Eric Foner
Narrated by: Donald Corren
Length: 7 hrs and 30 mins
Categories: History, Americas

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Publisher's Summary

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar, a timely history of the constitutional changes that built equality into the nation's foundation and how those guarantees have been shaken over time. 

The Declaration of Independence announced equality as an American ideal, but it took the Civil War and the subsequent adoption of three constitutional amendments to establish that ideal as American law. The Reconstruction amendments abolished slavery, guaranteed all persons due process and equal protection of the law, and equipped black men with the right to vote. They established the principle of birthright citizenship and guaranteed the privileges and immunities of all citizens. The federal government, not the states, was charged with enforcement, reversing the priority of the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In grafting the principle of equality onto the Constitution, these revolutionary changes marked the second founding of the United States. 

Eric Foner's compact, insightful history traces the arc of these pivotal amendments from their dramatic origins in pre-Civil War mass meetings of African-American "colored citizens" and in Republican party politics to their virtual nullification in the late 19th century. A series of momentous decisions by the Supreme Court narrowed the rights guaranteed in the amendments, while the states actively undermined them. The Jim Crow system was the result. 

Again today there are serious political challenges to birthright citizenship, voting rights, due process, and equal protection of the law. Like all great works of history, this one informs our understanding of the present as well as the past: knowledge and vigilance are always necessary to secure our basic rights.

©2019 Eric Foner (P)2019 Recorded Books

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  • Overall
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  • Jennifer
  • 01-10-19

Excellent book - problematic narrator

I admit to being disappointed that Professor Foner was not reading his book in his distinctive and familiar voice, but determined to give this narrator a try. After he has mispronounced Chief Justice Taney’s name four times within the first hour of the narration, however, I am distracted and disappointed. Audible, if you won’t let historians read their own work, make sure the narrators are knowledgeable about the period, please!

7 people found this helpful

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  • D. Keith
  • 21-02-20

Very relevant in our age of voter suppression

Clearly presents the complex story of how the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments came to be and how they ultimately failed to protect black rights and freedoms during the Jim Crow era.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 20-02-20

Great book.

A copy should be mailed to every supreme court justice. Short but powerful interpretation of these consequential amendments.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 29-12-19

Eye opening

Learned how much the 13th 14th and 15th amendments changed US government; how the potential of amendments was restricted by the Supreme Court; what happened during Reconstruction; and about the depths of racism in American history..

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  • Timmy the G
  • 14-11-19

Excellent History

Stuff I never learned in school. Finally understand how deeply rooted institutional racism is in this country and how few people in the government have been willing to take a principled stand to work and fight to end it over the past 150 years. Recommend this book for anybody who wants to understand how our past affects us now.

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  • MEK chef
  • 12-11-19

Wonderful book

The Second Founding is a great book. I, like most Americans, had little knowledge of the reconstruction amendments and how they were subverted by southern state governments and the Supreme Court. The history of how these amendments were essentially nullified is tragic and disturbing. Every American should read this book and join the struggle to ensure that every American enjoy equal treatment, equal protection, and equal rights granted by the Constitution.

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  • Caroline Pufalt
  • 10-11-19

Highly recommended

This is a valuable read for better understanding of history and the present. Anyone who reads civil war history will know of the 13,14 and 15th amendments. But this book brings their meaning to life.