The United States is inexorably linked to the stain of white supremacy. It is a stain that has been difficult to erase despite multiple inflection points and opportunities to reckon with America’s racist past. The Reconstruction Era of 1865 to 1877 that followed the Civil War provided the first opportunity for the United States to achieve some semblance of racial equality, and witnessed the adoption of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. The passage of these amendments, on paper, banned slavery and gave citizenship and the right to vote to Black Americans. Other important laws were also adopted, such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) Act of 1871, which were deemed necessary by Congress given that the KKK was carrying out wanton acts of brutality to stifle measures to provide civil and political rights to Blacks. Vigilantism and acts of terrorism perpetrated upon the Black population that killed thousands in the United States post-Civil War made the paper advances, in the form of the Reconstruction Era Amendments and other laws (like the KKK Act), seem aspirational.

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