The October Presidential Lecture will feature Doug Egerton, Ph.D. who will discuss Black Activism and Reconstruction in the North. Republican politicians and white reformers invariably thought of Reconstruction as a policy aimed at the defeated Confederacy. Black activists and veterans knew better. As Frederick Douglass once said during the conflict, this was a war of "national reclamation." Black Pennsylvanians were among the largest state contingents in the pioneering African-American units, the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Infantry regiments, yet as in Lincoln's Illinois, these soldiers could not vote in the Quaker State, even at the war's end. In a series of northern conventions starting in 1864, black activists demanded not merely the death of slavery, but voting rights and social equality in every state. This talk chronicles the struggle to make Reconstruction a national movement and shows, as the 1871 Election Day assassination of Philadelphia teach and activist Octavius Catto reminds us, that many Americans gave their last full measure of devotion long after formal combat ended in 1865.
Douglas R. Egerton has taught history at Le Moyne College since 1987; he has also held visiting appointments at Colgate University, Cornell University, and the University College of Dublin. He is the author of eight books, including Thunder At the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments That Redeemed America (2016), He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey (1999), The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America’s Most Progressive Era (2014), Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War (2010), Gabriel’s Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802 (1993), and Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America (2009). His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Nation, and the Boston Globe. He lives near Syracuse, New York, with his wife, historian Leigh Fought.
The Presidential Lecture Black Activism and Reconstruction in the North will take place in Ryder Hall at LancasterHistory.org. A social gathering with refreshments will begin at 4:00pm, followed by the lecture from 4:30pm-5:30pm. This event is free and open to the public.