TIME

America’s Second Sin

How an overlooked era still shapes our world
A group portrait of the first African-American legislators in the 41st and 42nd Congress

DURING AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS ROCK FOR MY PBS SERIES African American Lives 2, we traced the ancestry of several well-known African Americans. When I told Rock that his great-great-grandfather Julius Caesar Tingman had served in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War—enrolling on March 7, 1865, a little more than a month after the Confederates evacuated from Charleston, S.C.—he was brought to tears. I explained that seven years later, while still a young man in his mid-20s, this same ancestor was elected to the South Carolina house of representatives as part of that state’s Reconstruction government. Rock was flabbergasted, his pride in his ancestor rivaled only by gratitude that Julius’ story had been revealed at last. “It’s sad that all this stuff was kind of buried and that I went through a whole childhood and most of my adulthood not knowing,” Rock said. “How in the world could I not know this?”

I realized then that even descendants of black heroes of Reconstruction had lost the memory of their ancestors’ heroic achievements. I have been interested in Reconstruction and its tragic aftermath since I was an undergraduate at Yale University, and I have been teaching works by black authors

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from TIME

TIME3 min read
Love Your Spouse More
Parents’ love for their children can make them do peculiar things. Like staying up until 1 a.m. gluing glitter on a second-grade class project. Or driving 40 miles to deliver a single soccer cleat. Or, perhaps, bribing their teenagers’ way into a fan
TIME4 min readSociety
Uber’s IPO Highlights American Divisions
THE INSTANT UBER SHARES HIT THE New York Stock Exchange on May 10, people and groups from the company’s ex-CEO Travis Kalanick to Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund are set to make millions, even billions, of dollars. In all, Uber’s initial public
TIME2 min read
Myanmar’s Media Martyrs Freed
THE TWO FIGURES WERE FIRST SPOTTED by a photographer who arrived early on the scene, with a telephoto lens through the gates of a Yangon prison on May 7. One man’s signature thick-rimmed glasses confirmed it: the award-winning Reuters journalists who