Radical Reconstruction Books
MLause at cinci.rr.com
Fri Jul 11 07:53:58 MDT 2003
Somebody suggested that a list of titles other than Camejo's would be
helpful. I'm basically shelf-reading at home, adding information as
necessary from my memory...so don't take all the particulars here as
absolute...and my comments should be seen not as professional reviews in
brief, but a few off-the-cuff email quips by a groggy historian working
his way through a cup of morning coffee and hopefully not getting too
sidetracked from the day's labors ahead into this subject, which is much
A neglected gem was T. Thomas Fortunes, BLACK AND WHITE: LAND, LABOR AND
POLITICS IN THE SOUTH (New York, 1884); Fortune, the son of a Florida
black leader had become the most prominent African-American newspaperman
in New York and, at the time of this writing, was very close to John
Swinton, Henry George, and other white working-class radicals. Fortune
argued that Reconstruction unraveled because of the failure to institute
radical land reform in the South. Although very limited in its
influence at the time, I'd suggest that most of the subsequent efforts
to restore the good reputation of Reconstruction tends to sustain
Fortune's view. See Emma L. Thornbrough's biography, T. THOMAS FORTUNE:
MILITANT JOURNALIST (Chicago, 1972).
The standard conservative statement of what used to be the conservative
orthodox was William Dunning, RECONSTRUCTION, POOLITICAL AND ECONOMIC,
1865-1877 (New York 1962--but originally 1907). W.E.B. Dubois offered a
critique of this in BLACK RECONSTRUCTION IN AMERICA, 1860-1880
(Cleveland, 1964--sorry, don't have the original year of publication).
For a very influential Communist attempt, see James S. Allen's
RECONSTRUCTION: THE BATTLE FOR DEMOCRACY, 1865-1876 (New York,
1936)--sorry, I can't recall for whom "James S. Allen" was a pseudonym.
David Donald's THE POLITICS OF RECONSTRUCTION, 1863-1867 (Baton Rouge,
1965) is a good overview, and William Gillette's RETREAT FROM
RECONSTRUCTION, 1869-1879 (Baton Rough, 1979) refines the chronology of
that retreat considerably. Eric Foner's RECONSTRUCTION, 1863-1877 (New
York, 1988) is the best recent effort at a major overview.
For who were the Radical Republicans and what their Radicalism entailed,
see Hans L. Trefousse, THE RADICAL REPUBLICANS: LINCOLN'S VANGUARD FOR
RACIAL JUSTICE (Baton Rouge, 1968), with a good collection of documents
in THE RADICAL REPUBLICANS AND RECONSTRUCTION, 1861-1870, ed. Harold M.
Hyman (Indianapolis, 1968). For a nice look at what these people were
about at home, see James C. Mohr's THE RADICAL REPUBLICANS AND REFORM IN
NEW YORK DURING RECONSTRUCTION (Ithaca, 1973) and RADICAL REPUBLICANS IN
THE NORTH: STATE POLITICS DURING RECONSTRUCTION, ed. Mohr (Baltimore,
As the Radicals argued, so long as they retained their lands and wealth,
the ex-Confederate planters would remain a major, often dominant force
in the region, even with their temporary disenfranchisement. For the
development of a coherent and successful ex-Confederate strategy for
defeating a more extensive Reconstruction, see Michael Perman, REUNION
WITHOUT COMPROMISE: THE SOUTH AND RECONSTRUCION (Cambridge, 1973) and
James L Roark, MASTERS WITHOUT SLAVES: SOUTHERN PLANTERS IN THE CIVIL
WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION (New York, 1977), both relying heavily on private
papers of the the old Ruling class. Stetson Kennedy's AFTER APPOMATTOX:
HOW THE SOUTH WON THE WAR (Gainesville, 1995) is a very readable focus
on the role of political violence in restoring the planters to power.
This one includes some good primary sources.
Some good titles on the emergence of the freed people as a vital force
include the old collection BLACK RECONSTRUCTIONS, ed. Emma L.
Thornbrough (Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1973). Willie Lee Rose's
groundbreaking REHUEASAL FOR RECONSTRUCTION: THE PORT ROYAL EXPERIMENT
(3rd ed.; New York, 1976) covers the resettlement of runaway slaves on
the Sea Islands of the Carolina coast occupied by the Union forces very
early in the war. Thomas Holt's BLACK OVER WHITE: NEGRO POLITICAL
LEADERSHIP IN SOUTH CAROLINA DURING RECONSTRUCTION (Urbana, 1979) offers
a sweeping view of the process across the state. Michael Fitzgerald's
THE UNION LEAGUE MOVEMENT IN THE DEEP SOUTH: POLITICS AND AGRICULTURAL
CHANGE DURING RECONSTRUCTION (Baton Rouge, 1989) covers the most
important organization of the Southern Reconstructions in the far
southern parts of Mississippi and Alabama, if memory serves.
I should add that there are a number of really good studies of
Reconstruction in the unusually complex setting of Louisiana have been
written and published. One of the strange anomalies there was that a
small but important labor movement in New Orleans clearly played an
active role in municipal politics both before and after the war and
Union military occupation.
A few biographies...Peggy Lamson's THE GLORIOUS FAILURE: BLACK
CONGRESSMAN ROBERT BROWN ELLIOTT AND THE RECONSTRUCTION (New York, 1973)
covers an important. For a biography of a border state black leader,
see Gary R. Kremer's JAMES MILTON TURNER AND THE PROMISE OF AMERICA: THE
PUBLIC LIFE OF A POST-CIVIL WAR BLACK LEADER (Columbia MO, 1991). Eric
Foner's FREEDOM'S LAWMAKERS: A DIRECTORY OF BLACK OFFICEHOLDERS DURING
RECONSTRUCTION (Rev. ed.; Baton Rouge, 1996) offers an overdue glimpse
into the rise of locally important African American leaders.
For white allies, see Richard N. Current's THOSE TERRIBLE CARPETBAGGERS:
A REINTERPRETATION (Oxford, 1988). As an aside, his LINCOLN'S
LOYALISTS: UNION SOLDIERS FROM THE CONFEDERACY (New York, 1992) rather
understates the case that the Confederacy collapsed most immediately
because many Southern whites never really supported it.
For the small but decisive groups of more conservative Northern whites
in the South, see Lawrence N. Powell, NEW MASTERS: NORTHERN PLANTERS
DURING THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION (New Haven, 1980) and Joseph G.
Dawson III's ARMY GENERALS AND RECONSTRUCTION: LOUISIANA, 1862-1877
(Baton Rouge, 1982).
Hope this is of some use to those interested in the subject. Gotta go
to work now.
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