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The Two Reconstructions

The Two Reconstructions:
The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement
By Dr. Richard M. Valelly
The University of Chicago Press, 2004
330 pp., $58.00 cloth ISBN 0-226-84528-1;
$22.50 paperback ISBN 0-226-84530-3

The Reconstruction era marked a huge political leap for African Americans, who rapidly went from the status of slaves to voters and officeholders. Yet this hard-won progress lasted only a few decades. Ultimately a “second reconstruction” — associated with the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act — became necessary. How did the first reconstruction fail so utterly, setting the stage for the complete disenfranchisement of Southern Black voters, and why did the second succeed?

Dr. Richard M. Valelly addresses these issues in this book and shows how effective biracial coalitions have been the key to success. The Two Reconstructions explains a puzzle that lies at the heart of America’s development as a political democracy.

Dr. Richard M. Valelly is professor of political science at Swarthmore College. He is the author of Radicalism in the States: The Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party and the American Political Economy (1989), also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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