The previous posts did a nice job of addressing this question. For my bet, I would suggest that the answer lies in the distinction between theory and reality. The theoretical advancements made in the Reconstruction time period were highly significant. The Civil War Amendments (13, 14, and 15) added to the Constitution were groundbreaking for African- Americans and all individuals who were not originally conceived in the founding of the nation. To be able to boast such an advancement is powerfully compelling. At the same time, the reality of racial division in the South, the lack of institutional and social support given to people of color, and the idea that racism is not merely embedded in the institutional setting, but the social one are realities that cast a very critical eye on the time period. America, itself, can be seen as a nation that strives to be poised between these two levels of the good, that which is theoretical and that which is bound to reality. The Reconstruction Period typifies this dichotomy.