Book Club: The Third Reconstruction by Dr. Peniel E. Joseph

Join us for the RFKHR Board and Leadership Council Book Club Conversation on July 18 from 2-3 pm ET / 11 am – 12 pm PT. We host these quarterly virtual gatherings to engage our members, amplify social justice activists, authors, and journalists, and provide a deep dive into our work.

This month’s selection, THE THIRD RECONSTRUCTION: America’s Struggle for Racial Justice in the Twenty-First Century, written by historian Peniel E. Joseph, winner of the 2023 RFK Book Award, offers a powerful interpretation of recent history, arguing that the racial reckoning of 2020 marked the climax of a Third Reconstruction: a new struggle for citizenship and dignity for Black Americans, just as momentous as the movements that arose after the Civil War and during the civil rights era. His book navigates the through-lines that connect three watershed moments in recent U.S. history: the turmoil of Donald Trump and MAGA’s rise; a global pandemic that changed the contours of daily life and revealed just how deeply economic disparities impact Black lives; and the explosion of Black Lives Matter, the largest social protest movement in American history. Weaving together history, memoir, and cultural criticism, and emphasizing the leading role of Black women as political organizers and activists, Joseph reveals the clashing reconstructionist and redemptionist impulses that have shaped our nation since its origin. While America’s first and second Reconstructions failed to achieve their greatest aims, our Third Reconstruction, Joseph writes, offers a once-in-a-generation chance to achieve Black dignity and citizenship at last.

Peniel E. Joseph is the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, and Associate Dean for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of award-winning books on African American history, including The Sword and the Shield and Stokely: A Life. He lives in Austin, Texas.