Black people in the South were liberated during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War. It was followed by a white backlash and the Jim Crow era, in which most of their newly won rights were taken away.
Then came the civil rights era of the 1960s and 1970s, which the Rev. William J. Barber, leader of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, calls a second Reconstruction. Another white backlash attacked the gains from that era.
Rev. Mr. Barber says it is time for a third Reconstruction. Like the first two, he said, it requires fusion politics—blacks and whites working together for the common good. The backlash succeeds only when they are divided.
To see what he means, take a look at the Constitution of North Carolina, originally drafted in 1868 and retaining much of its original wording. It is a very progressive document, even by today’s standards.
It states that not all persons created equal and have the right not only to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but to “the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor.”
It guarantees free public education as a right. It states that beneficent provision for the poor, the unfortunate and the orphan is among the first duties of a civilized and a Christian state. It guarantees all the rights in the U.S. Constitution and eliminates property qualifications for voting.
All these provisions are the result of Reconstruction. North Carolina’s present Constitution was drafted at a constitutional convention immediately following the Civil War. The 133 delegates included 15 newly enfranchised African-Americans and 18 Northern white men (so called carpetbaggers).
It was ratified by a popular vote in which 55 percent voted “yes”. As a result, more African-Americans were elected to public office in North Carolina in the following period than at any time since.