A Brief Moment in the Sun

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Have you had the experience, recently, where you watch something about history and you feel like you have not ever heard that before? What a treat to hear the newest series from PBS on Reconstruction: America after the Civil War. This period is one where as the nation tries to knit itself back together, Black Americans are trying to exercise the rights of their citizenship.

“Henry Louis Gates Jr. presents a vital new four-hour documentary series on Reconstruction: America After the Civil War. The series explores the transformative years following the American Civil War, when the nation struggled to rebuild itself in the face of profound loss, massive destruction, and revolutionary social change. The twelve years that composed the post-war Reconstruction era (1865-77) witnessed a seismic shift in the meaning and makeup of our democracy, with millions of former slaves and free black people seeking out their rightful place as equal citizens under the law. Though tragically short-lived, this bold democratic experiment was, in the words of W. E. B. Du Bois, a ‘brief moment in the sun’ for African Americans, when they could advance, and achieve, education, exercise their right to vote, and run for and win public office.”

PBS Series on Reconstruction

But to my surprise, I don’t quite know this story! Have you had the experience where someone like Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “Skippy,” tells you that reconstruction after the Civil War was just like the Obama presidency and how Redemption, the period that follows Reconstruction is just like the period we are living in now? Have you had the light bulb go on above your head, and stay on? How could we be repeating this history?

Although the north won the war, the south has continued to live its own way of life, even as the north and south have dissolved into our common land. Our differences that were so publicly declaimed during that war have to some degree turned inward towards friends who will listen to many songs of our country. Perhaps we need to “sleep,” our way to a more united country?

Macbeth, Act II, Scene II Macbeth: Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep, Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast….

Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act ii, Scene II

The pandemic has been like our sleep, the death of how we used to be, the balm we needed for our hurt minds, and humankind’s second course. Could education help us to knit up the ravelled sleeve of care?