The end of Reconstruction

The 1800s were a time of milking cows and going to the county fair.

Sure… but what else? We tend to think of this century as a quiet, pastoral era when people were friendly and life was simple. But the 1800s were a crazy time! The American Civil War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Spanish-American War, conquest, the suffrage movement, the prohibition movement, massive technological changes. It’s a wonder we ever made it out alive.

In this episode, we explore the early life of William Jennings Bryan and the Democratic Party, the party of Jim Crow that he would soon lead. After the Civil War, it was the Democrats who created Black Codes in the South to restrict the upward mobility of African Americans. They were the party of white farmers and soon transitioned into representing labor unions and, eventually, many black people in the United States. Bryan was one of the men responsible for that transition.

Helpful Links and Sources:

  • “A Godly Hero” by Michael Kazin
  • Truce episode about the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)
  • Meeting notes of the 1873 Evangelical Alliance
  • “Fundamentalism and American Culture” by George Marsden
  • “A Righteous Cause” by Robert W. Cherny (book on William Jennings Bryan)
  • Interesting bio on Stephen Douglas
  • President Hays’ acceptance speech

Discussion Questions:

  • What do you think of when you think of the 1800s?
  • Was the 1800s a simpler time?
  • What mistakes did the Republican Party make in ending Reconstruction?
  • How should abolitionists have handled the South after the Civil War?
  • Can a Christian lead a racist political party? Should they?
  • What were some technological advances that came about in the 1800s? How might they have shifted the way people lived and thought back then?
  • Are there technological changes going on now that could shift the way we think and interact with each other?
  • Chris ends the episode by talking about how Christians should be a people of the means, not necessarily the ends. Do you think the ends ever justify the means for Christians?
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