The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (Paperback)

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“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.



About the Author


Eric Foner is the author of many award-winning books on the Civil War and Reconstruction, including The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He is DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University.

Praise For…


Disciplined, powerful and moving.… [An] important book.
— Lincoln Caplan

Lucid and succinct.
— John Fabian Witt

Sometimes a book makes you reconsider a subject you’ve studied all of your adult life.
— Adam Liptak, Supreme Court correspondent

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

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

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

Mr. Foner makes his case with brio and erudition.
— Fergus M. Bordewich

In this moment, indeed in any, Eric Foner’s new book is uncommonly valuable.
— W. Fitzhugh Brundage

With The Second Founding, Foner offers a taut, absorbing companion piece to his magisterial Reconstruction, published three decades ago.

— Hamilton Cain

[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


Product Details
ISBN: 9780393358520
ISBN-10: 0393358526
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: August 11th, 2020
Pages: 304