Into America

Reconstructed: Birth of a Black Nation (2022)

Episode Summary

We’re revisiting “Reconstructed.” In episode one: the rise of Black political power, told through the amazing story of Robert Smalls, who escaped slavery and became a war hero and congressman.

Episode Notes

In February 2022, Into America launched “Reconstructed,” a series about the legacy of Reconstruction.

The story begins in the late 1860s, as the newly freed became citizens under the law and Black men gained the right to vote. Black Americans across the South suddenly had the power to exert control over their own lives. In the face of horrific violence from their white neighbors, Black people voted in liberal governments across the South, elevating hundreds of their own to places of political power. 

Perhaps no one exemplifies this more than the late Congressman Robert Smalls. As his great-great-grandson Michael Boulware Moore tells Trymaine Lee, Smalls’ daring escape from slavery and wartime actions made him a hero. Then, like hundreds of newly freed Black Americans, he decided to get involved in politics in his hometown of Beaufort, South Carolina. 

And more than a century later, we still see the impact of this brief time of Black political power, through people like the current Democratic National Committee chair and South Carolina native Jaime Harrison, who tells Trymaine how today’s 20th-Century fight for voting rights is a continuation of the Reconstruction era. 

(Original release date: February 3, 2022)

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