On Wednesday evening, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hosted the second lecture in the 2015 Leon Silverman Lecture Series, which focuses on the Supreme Court and Reconstruction. In her lecture at the Court, Pamela Brandwein of the University of Michigan sought to unravel the conventional wisdom, which originated with historian C. Vann Woodward, that the Court killed Reconstruction.
According to the conventional view, after Lincoln’s death, his wobbly “new birth” for the nation plowed into the Court’s state action doctrine and promptly received the kiss of death from the Compromise of 1877. At that point, Democrats took control over Reconstruction policy; Republicans did the same for economic policy, leading them to abandon their black constituents. In the conventional story, Justice Joseph P. Bradley is portrayed as a key antagonist in the plot against Reconstruction, and as the progenitor