Reflections/Jonathan Gramling

Jonathan Gramling

The Second Reconstruction

It has been said that those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it. I couldn’t help but think about that as Baraboo Superintendent Dr. Rainey Briggs was forcibly moved out of the way on the high school graduation stage by a white man who didn’t want Rainey — I’ve known him since he was in middle school — to shake the hand of his daughter as she received her diploma.

What empowered this man to take such an action against the head of Baraboo’s school system? While racists in our society have always been present in every community in America, I feel that it was the impact of the Civil Rights Movement that disempowered people like this man and they sulked individually or as a group at the corner tavern.

But there has been a resurgence of white nationalism and sense of entitlement over the past decade or so that became visibly national with the election of former President Donald Trump back in 2016. And to me, it just seems there are so many parallels to the Reconstruction period in U.S. History that I — and many others — believe that we are in the Second Reconstruction.

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The first Reconstruction began at the end of the American Civil War in 1865. The Second Reconstruction began after the Civil Rights Movement dissipated after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. In the aftermath of these two conflicts, hundreds of African Americans were elected to public positions from the local to the national. In 1865, Mississippi was a majority-Black state and its majority Black legislature elected Hiram Revels to be the first Black U.S. Senator in America’s history in 1870. In 2006, Barack Obama was elected the first U.S. President.

And in each of these cases, counter forces began to develop. The Compromise of 1877 allowed Rutherford B. Hayes to assume the U.S. presidency and the last of the federal troops were withdrawn for the South. By 1905, there were few, if any Black elected representatives in the South and groups like the Ku Klux Klan violently enforced segregation and severely limited the avenues for Blacks to receive an education and grow economically. America’s Apartheid was put in place and would last until the 1970s.

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2006, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed that he was going to block Obama’s legislation. In Wisconsin, it was believed that Obama carried the state because of the tremendous turnout of the Black vote. State Senator Glenn Grothman — now U.S. Representative Grothman — claimed that Obama won Wisconsin due to wholesale voting fraud in Milwaukee County and thus started the movement to limit the voting rights of Blacks in Wisconsin, a movement begun in many states controlled by Republicans.

And just like the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, we now have the rise of violent groups right-wing groups like the Proud Boy who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 and I believe stand ready to perpetrate more violent acts if Trum is not elected this November.

People need to be vigilant because history is being repeated. And unless you are engaged in the voting process, quite possibly, forces will take p[ower that will continue to strip you of your rights. Think about it.