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1870: Senator Hiram Revels (left) of Mississippi with some of the first black members of congress, (from left) Benjamin Turner, Robert De Large, Josiah Walls, Jefferson Long, Joseph Rainey and Robert Brown Elliot.

What everyone should know about Reconstruction 150 years after the 15th Amendment’s ratification

Patterson is an assistant professor of secondary school studies at West Virginia University.

I'll never forget a student's response when I asked during a middle school social studies class what they knew about black history: "Martin Luther King freed the slaves."

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929, more than six decades after the time of enslavement. To me, this comment underscored how closely Americans associate black history with slavery.

While shocked, I knew this mistaken belief reflected the lack of time, depth and breadth schools devote to black history. Most students get limited information and context about what African Americans have experienced since our ancestors arrived here four centuries ago. Without independent study, most adults aren't up to speed either.

For instance, what do you know about Reconstruction?

Based on my experience teaching social studies and my current work preparing social studies educators, I consider understanding what happened during the Reconstruction essential for exploring black power, resilience and excellence.

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The state Supreme Court said it was fair to make ex-felons like Erica Racz (seen registering to vote in January 2019) pay all monetary penalties before regaining the franchise. But it was only an advisory opinion.

Florida top court ruling on felon voting is hardly the final word

Republicans hoping to limit the newly restored voting rights of convicted felons in Florida have won the backing of the state Supreme Court. But it's really just a victory in the court of public opinion, because the justices issued only an advisory opinion Thursday while the real decision is up to the federal courts.

At issue is a law passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature last year to implement a state constitutional amendment approved in 2018 with the support of almost two-thirds of the electorate, restoring voting rights to about 1.4 million Floridians with criminal records.

It is the largest single expansion of voting rights in the country since 18-year-olds got the constitutional right to cast ballots half a century ago. But its reach could be sharply limited if Republicans successfully defend the financial curbs they want to impose.

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Ted Wetzel

"Although there are quite a lot of common values among us Americans, I continue to be amazed that even after my 200th interview, the one after that always added a new insight."

Meet the reformer: Ted Wetzel, who's got civic secrets to share

A lifelong resident of the Cleveland area, Ted Wetzel is an engineer who spent five years at a Fortune 500 company, 17 years in marketing and management at smaller manufacturers, and then 11 years as a small-business owner before turning to his passion project. He created Fighting to Understand to spread the message that civic education and a collaborative spirit among everyday Americans can restore the core values of a democratic republic for the next generation. With a diverse group of 18 collaborators, in October he self-published the first edition of a book now titled "9 Secrets for Avoiding Divided We Fall" and is working on a plan for widespread distribution this spring. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less.

Most people don't want freedom; they would settle for a just master. (I'm not sure who to attribute this verse to.)

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"Misleading speech is the essential element of despots, because despots need the support of the people," argues Lawrence Torcello.

Why tyranny could be the inevitable outcome of democracy

Torcello is an associate professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Plato, one of the earliest thinkers and writers about democracy, predicted that letting people govern themselves would eventually lead the masses to support the rule of tyrants.

When I tell my college-level philosophy students that in about 380 B.C. he asked "does not tyranny spring from democracy," they're sometimes surprised, thinking it's a shocking connection.

But looking at the modern political world, it seems much less far-fetched to me now. In democratic nations like Turkey, Great Britain, Hungary, Brazil and the United States, anti-elite demagogues are riding a wave of populism fueled by nationalist pride. It is a sign that liberal constraints on democracy are weakening.

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