The end of the Second Reconstruction will not be as dramatic at the first one. But the systematic way in which Republican majorities in Southern statehouses are undoing so many of the hard-won gains of the civil rights movement suggests that the end is nigh. Whether it’s by imposing new voter-ID laws, slashing public assistance, refusing Medicaid expansion, or repealing progressive legislation like North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act, the GOP-controlled governments of Southern states are behaving in ways that are at times as hostile to the interests of their African American citizens as Jim Crow Democrats were half a century ago.
When it was Sanders’ turn to speak, he did not dwell on his achievements or the movement. Instead, he simply thanked Rose for organizing the event, explaining that he’d been busy that week in the legislature, and he asked his various families—his kin, his political organization, his law firm—to stand for recognition. “I’m not going to try to make a speech to try to impress you,” Sanders said. He looked at the faces looking back at him. “If I haven’t said enough or done enough in all these years,” he went on, “I’m just out of luck.”