From 1863-1877, the US government took steps to integrate the nation’s newly freed Black population into society. While this period of Reconstruction attempted to change the very terms of American democracy by extending the franchise and civil rights to African American men, it aspired to something more—land reform, economic democracy, and the remaking of the American polity around the principles of racial equality and inclusion . The withdrawal of federal troops from the South in 1877 did more than just end Reconstruction; it effectively ensured that racial hierarchy would survive slavery’s abolition. It fueled racial terror lynchings, legally codified segregation, and our mass incarceration crisis. The disastrous effects of slavery and the toxic aftermath of a country fractured by hatred have shaped the region and perpetuated deep suffering. Until we address these wounds, not just with empathy but with action, the full promise of America will remain unfulfilled .