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Reconstructing America

Making Good the Promises

During Reconstruction, African Americans helped lead the effort to rebuild the nation without slavery. Their quest to secure full citizenship rights, as promised in the Constitution, expanded the definition of who is included in American democracy.

Although Reconstruction transformed the nation in fundamental ways, its work remains unfinished, its promises unfulfilled. New generations, from the 20th century Civil Rights Movement to today’s Black Lives Matter movement, have taken up the challenge of creating a more just, free, and equitable society. Guided by the promises of equality, the belief in the possibility of change, and the willingness to reckon with the hard truths of history, the work of reconstructing America continues.

How Would You Reconstruct America?

American society changes by the choices and actions of its people, and many people are seeking to change our world. They are voting, volunteering, donating, speaking out, building consensus, supporting communities, elevating voices, and participating in conservation efforts.

The museum posed the question, “How Would You Reconstruct America?” to encourage visitors to be agents of change in their world and communities. Visitors' reflections covered topics such as helping the community, practicing environmental sustainability, being kind and loving towards themselves and others, speaking truth to power, and learning about the past in order to create a better future.

“The Hill We Climb”

manda Gorman reads inauguration poem The Hill We Climb.

Amanda Gorman became the country’s youngest inaugural poet when she recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021.

Because being American is more than a pride we inherit—
It’s the past we step into, and how we repair it.

Amanda Gorman, excerpt from “The Hill We Climb”, 2021