The Reckoning Book Summary - The Reckoning Book explained in key points
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The Reckoning summary

Mary L. Trump

Our Nation's Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal

3.2 (210 ratings)
20 mins
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    The Reckoning
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    Racism structured American society well after the Civil War concluded.

    Luther and Mary Holbert are tied to a tree outside Doddsville, Mississippi. Around them is an angry mob of more than 600 men, women, and children. The crowd is whipped into a frenzy – over the next few hours they cheer as the couple are brutally tortured and eventually burned alive.

    This brutal scene isn’t some artifact of antebellum life – it took place in 1904, decades after the end of the Civil War. And it wasn’t an isolated incident. Between 1865 and 1950 more than 6000 Black people were killed by white lynch mobs.

    Such stories and statistics are horrific, yet, they’re important to recall. They demonstrate the awful stain that racism and white supremacy have left in the United States – a stain that still remains today.

    The key message here is: Racism structured American society well after the Civil War concluded.

    When the Civil War finally ended in 1865, America was at a crossroads. Not only did the country have to rebuild physically, but it also had to reconfigure its social and economic structures. For more than two centuries, the nation built its wealth on the back of a cruel racial caste system. Now, more than four million formerly enslaved people had to be integrated into society.

    During this period, called Reconstruction, Northern politicians pushed through the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. In theory, these constitutional orders eliminated slavery and guaranteed freed people equal citizenship and the right to vote. But, in practice, these laws fell short. 

    Many states, especially in the south, found ways to re-entrench white supremacy. Legislatures passed poll taxes and literacy tests to keep Black communities from voting. They also passed new, strict laws called Black Codes. These codes made vague acts like “loitering” criminal offenses. With these laws, many freed Black people were swept up by local police and punished with forced labor – effectively recreating slavery as a legal institution.

    By the time Reconstruction ended in 1867, much of the optimism and opportunity felt after the war had faded. Then, in 1896, the Supreme Court issued a decision in the case Plessy v. Ferguson. This ruling established the “separate but equal” doctrine which laid the legal groundwork for segregated institutions in the coming decades. So, even after the Civil War, Black Americans were subject to discriminatory and oppressive structures which kept them from experiencing their full rights as citizens. 

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    What is The Reckoning about?

    The Reckoning (2021) is an unflinching look at contemporary American society. This sharp treatise draws informative connections between the nation’s traumas and its current issues.

    Who should read The Reckoning?

    • Voters struggling to understand the contemporary political landscape
    • Citizens concerned about the future of their country
    • Anyone interested in a critical analysis of American society

    About the Author

    Mary L. Trump holds a PhD in clinical psychology from Adelphi University and is the author of the best seller Too Much and Never Enough. She is the niece of former US President Donald Trump.

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