RICHMOND - If ever there was one period and place that came close to experiencing both the best of times and the worst of times, the Reconstruction years in the United States would be a clear contender. A murky follow-up act to the Civil War, Reconstruction (1865-1877) was the government's plan to redevelop the crushed South.
The result was the first public schools in the South, many of the first black colleges and churches, the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution and the first black voters and political officeholders. But just as real and lasting, the Reconstruction years produced the Ku Klux Klan and other secret societies that spread like wildfire throughout the South in opposition to the new status of former slaves.
With threats, beatings and murders, they, in effect, stripped blacks of their new freedoms, such as the right to vote and even the ability to walk down sidewalks at the same time as whites.
Ironically, nearly 120 years later, the first major exhibit focusing on the terror and tyranny of those years has come to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy.
"America's Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War" is …