Slavery, the Civil War & Reconstruction

The American history is defined by different factors, which may include slavery, the civil war, and the reconstruction among others. Eric Foner, in his book ‘Slavery, The Civil War & Reconstruction’ presents a clear discussion of how these factors have influenced America over time.

Social movements have also contributed in inspiring the American history in the past 20 years by shuttering the “consensus” vision that dominated historical writing. Civil rights movement is suggested to be at the center of social change in post World War II America. In civil war era, emancipation and slavery were some of the central issues. In addition to this, the blacks shaped the era’s history by being active agents.

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According to the author, historians suggest that early U.S. slavery was situated in a transatlantic system. This was due to the link that United States had with Africa and the Caribbean. Despite the inauguration of the first president, a vigorous slave trade continued for twenty years.

However, the languages and the cultural forms of the African slaves remained vibrant and sustained by infusion of the new people arriving in the United States. In addition, Intellectual Privacy was sustained by the ability of the slaves to speak languages the owners did not understand; while tribal identities were also sustained by speaking these different languages (Foner, 45)

The legal basics of slavery were lost in the 1780s in the North due to the phrase “all men are born free and equal” which was interpreted by a Massachusetts court as simply outlawing slavery (Foner 43)

Civil War

John Shy describes civil war as “a social process of political education” (Foner 48). According to the author, the war began as a mass resistance of the crowd but later shifted to armed forces. Market revolution, which was crucial to the American lives contributed to new components of consciousness, politics and social life, which in turn brought about Civil War.

The author also notes that in Lincoln’s second inaugural address, he insinuated that slavery was the cause of the civil war, although some historians differ with this (Foner, 91)


A large number of freed black men learn to read and write in the army before becoming articulate political leaders during the Reconstruction era (Foner, 93). Former slaves were thrust into a no-man’s land which was between freedom and slavery by the end of reconstruction. This in turn was considered a mockery of the idea of equal citizenship (Foner, 102). Moreover, majority of the blacks in the reconstruction period supported the Republican Party, which is said to have won their royalty during that period (Foner, 111)


The three factors that have been discussed above were some of the main pillars that shaped the American history. Social change in the American history was brought about due to the efforts of civil rights movements. The Republicans were considered to be antislavery thus contributing to their liking by the black community. Moreover, the northern society of America was opposed to slavery in contradiction to their southern counterparts that still held on to slavery.

Works Cited

Foner, Eric. Slavery, the Civil War & Reconstruction. Philadelphia: TEMPLE UNIVERSITY PRESS. 1997.


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