Eric Foner is a remarkable historian who has turned the Dunning interpretation of the period of Reconstruction on its head. His analysis of this period is stunningly intelligent and inclusive, speaking of the remarable far-sightedness, almost modern ring to some of what this era accomplished. I had the privilege of attending a Gilder Lehrman Summer Institute several years ago with him and twenty other teachers at Columbia in New York, engaging in lively conversation about this provocatiove period in American history.
The reason I write this is that I speak very highly of Foner to my students. In our present discussion of Reconstruction we have read a couple of pieces he wrote and watched a documentary where he and his words figured prominently. Mischievously my students began a banter around my love for Foner. “Does your husband know how much you care for Foner?” With a finger in front of my lips, I told them not to breathe a word of this to him.
“So who do you love more, Foner or your husband.”
“Hmm…,” I answer with my eyes toward the ceiling in an extended pause.
We read Foner’s “Reconstruction Amendments: Official Documents as Social History” as the closure to the unit. AK shared, “Well, we all know why we’re reading this. Of course, he gets the last word.” I love how my students have made my connections with Foner’s scholarly work so playful. It shows me, in their very 8th grade way, that they have internalized a lot that we have discussed about Reconstruction. It has become our “in” joke, but it is also reflective of our “in”sight.
“Tell us more about that summer seminar,” MN asked.
At the end of class, as I was about to erase the blackboard, I found the notebook paper pictured above hanging from the top of the board (I’m Jan). I really wish I knew Foner well enough to let him know that he has become quite the rock star in my 8th grade Humanities class.