The First Reconstruction: Black Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War

The First Reconstruction: Black Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War

On Thursday, September 16, 2021, Franklin & Marshall College Professor and Associate Chair of History Dr. Van E. Gosse will join LancasterHistory virtually to discuss his latest publication, The First Reconstruction, which traces the First Reconstruction of black political activism following emancipation in the North.

Photo of Van E. Gosse, Ph.D.
Van E. Gosse, Ph.D.

It may be difficult to imagine that consequential black electoral politics evolved in the United States before the Civil War, for as of 1860, the overwhelming majority of African Americans remained in bondage. Yet free black men, many of them escaped slaves, steadily increased their influence in electoral politics over the course of the early American republic. Despite efforts to disfranchise them, black men voted across much of the North, sometimes in numbers sufficient to swing elections. In this meticulously-researched book, Van Gosse offers a sweeping reappraisal of the formative era of American democracy from the Constitution’s ratification through Abraham Lincoln’s election, chronicling the rise of an organized, visible black politics focused on the quest for citizenship, the vote, and power within the free states. From Portland, Maine and New Bedford, Massachusetts to Brooklyn and Cleveland, black men operated as voting blocs, denouncing the notion that skin color could define citizenship.

Van E. Gosse, Ph.D. is a Professor, Associate Chair of History, and the Program Chair of Africana Studies at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. He graduated with a degree in History from Columbia University before earning his Ph.D. at Rutgers University. The First Reconstruction: Black Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War is his latest book, published in 2021 by UNC Press. He is also the author of Native Sons: Black Politics in America, From the Revolution to the Civil War (UNC Press, 2020) and Rethinking the New Left: An Interpretative History (Palgrave MacMillan, 2005).


This event will take place online via Zoom on September 16, 2021 at 7pm Eastern. This is NOT an in-person event.

The program is free and open to the public but requires advance registration. Register online by clicking “Get Tickets” below or by calling (717) 392-4633. Your link to the Zoom event will be emailed to you upon successful registration. If you are unfamiliar with Zoom, we highly recommend reading our Virtual Event Guide & FAQ in advance the of the event. Registration for this program will close online on September 16 at 6:50pm ET.

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Online/Virtual Event Lecture

September 16, 2021 Online via Zoom 7pm Eastern FREE | Registration Required