“Gripping and essential.”—Jesse Wegman, New York Times
An authoritative history by the preeminent scholar of the Civil War era, The Second Founding traces the arc of the three foundational Reconstruction amendments from their origins in antebellum activism and adoption amidst intense postwar politics to their virtual nullification by narrow Supreme Court decisions and Jim Crow state laws. Today these amendments remain strong tools for achieving the American ideal of equality, if only we will take them up.
Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University. In his teaching and scholarship, he focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth-century America. He has served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association. In 2006, he received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia University. His most recent books are The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, winner of the Bancroft and Lincoln Prizes and the Pulitzer Prize for History; Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, winner of the New York Historical Society Book Prize; and The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.
Disciplined, powerful and moving.… [An] important book.
— Lincoln Caplan - New York Times Book Review
Lucid and succinct.
— John Fabian Witt - Washington Post
Sometimes a book makes you reconsider a subject you’ve studied all of your adult life.
— Adam Liptak, Supreme Court correspondent - New York Times
Brisk but far-reaching.… [C]opies of this book should be spread around the capital, because the battles of contemporary Washington are but a second act to the struggles prompted by Foner’s Second Founding.
— David M. Shribman - Boston Globe
The Second Founding… demonstrates [Foner’s] talent at unearthing insights about the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, in particular how Americans defined and acted on the ideals of freedom and democracy.… [He writes] in what another eminent historian, Christopher Lasch, called ‘plain style’: direct and vivid prose without a trace of specialized language, which anyone with a passing interest in the subject can read, learn from, and enjoy.
— Michael Kazin - Nation
As the dean of Reconstruction studies, Foner is the ideal scholar to produce a history of the three amendments added to the Constitution during the period—amendments so powerful as to justify the book’s title.
— James Oakes - New York Review of Books
Mr. Foner makes his case with brio and erudition.
— Fergus M. Bordewich - Wall Street Journal
In this moment, indeed in any, Eric Foner’s new book is uncommonly valuable.
— W. Fitzhugh Brundage - Washington Examiner
With The Second Founding, Foner offers a taut, absorbing companion piece to his magisterial Reconstruction, published three decades ago.
— Hamilton Cain - Minneapolis Star Tribune
[The Second Founding] should land on the desk of every federal jurist.… [It] presents a sobering picture of the use and misuse of history in legal battles over race. But it is hopeful too. Change is possible with more truthful and expansive historical knowledge.
— Amy Murrell Taylor - Times Literary Supplement