The Second American Revolution

Historian Eric Foner on slavery, freedom, and contemporary US politics.

An 1881 printing displaying contemporaneous black heroes and the struggle for freedom. J. Hoover / Library of Congress

Eric Foner is a leading historian whose work focuses on American political history, shifting notions of freedom and liberty, and (perhaps most famously) post–Civil War Reconstruction. His latest book is Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.

In this conversation, the Columbia University professor speaks about growing up in a politically active family (both his father and uncle were blacklisted American historians), his encounters and interactions with figures from Paul Robeson and W. E. B. DuBois to Richard Hofstadter and Eugene Genovese, and his thoughts on contemporary politics.