31 January 2016

Fables of the Reconstruction: Why Clinton's comments about Southern history matter

By Chris Kromm

At a CNN town hall for the Democratic presidential hopefuls this week, Hillary Clinton was asked a seemingly softball question: Who is your favorite president of all time?

Clinton's answer: Abraham Lincoln, a safe bet given Lincoln's consistent ranking among scholars as the country's best leader. But Clinton's response took an odd turn — and generated national controversy, at least among historians and pundits — when she appeared to suggest Lincoln's death was tragic not only because of the South's descent into Jim Crow and white terror, but equally disastrous because of the experiment in postwar democracy known as Reconstruction:
You know, [Lincoln] was willing to reconcile and forgive. And I don't know what our country might have been like had he not been murdered, but I bet that it might have been a little less rancorous, a little more forgiving and tolerant, that might possibly have brought people back together more quickly.


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