There are passages in the book when the reader is overwhelmed by the poignant emotions they evoke. One such is the depiction of black Americans’ exhibition of bravery in the battle grounds. Despite historical injustices suffered by them, they joined forces with fellow Unionists and staked their lives for the promise of emancipation. The author puts such sacrifices in the context of the fruits they bore. In other words, looking back at the 150 years since the ushering of the Reconstruction era, one sees examples of tokenism without much substance behind them. Admittedly, the station of blacks and other minorities in the country has improved over the years, but these improvements don’t add up to deem them as equal citizens to their white counterparts. As Foner subtly reminds the reader, today the practice of discrimination against blacks continues in politics, commerce and broader society, although their manifestation has taken more palatable forms.
As for where the book falls short, it surely lacks the rigorousness of research and presentation that the unabridged version ‘Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution’ possessed. But this deficiency is reasonably compensated by the author by compressing most of the unabridged content into a concise yet factual narrative. Hence, for the numerous other merits associated with the book, it is highly recommended for scholars as well as the general audience.
Eric Foner, “A Short History of Reconstruction”, published by HarperCollins in 1989.