The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction
Author: Charles Lane
Pubpsher: Henry Holt and Company
The untold story of the slaying of a Southern town's ex-slaves and a white lawyer's historic battle to bring the perpretators to justice Following the Civil War, Colfax, Louisiana, was a town, like many, where African Americans and whites mingled uneasily. But on April 13, 1873, a small army of white ex–Confederate soldiers, enraged after attempts by freedmen to assert their new rights, killed more than sixty African Americans who had occupied a courthouse. With skill and tenacity, The Washington Post's Charles Lane transforms this nearly forgotten incident into a riveting historical saga. Seeking justice for the slain, one brave U.S. attorney, James Beckwith, risked his life and career to investigate and punish the perpetrators—but they all went free. What followed was a series of courtroom dramas that culminated at the Supreme Court, where the justices' verdict compromised the victories of the Civil War and left Southern blacks at the mercy of violent whites for generations. The Day Freedom Died is an electrifying piece of historical detective work that captures a gallery of characters from presidents to townspeople, and re-creates the bloody days of Reconstruction, when the often brutal struggle for equality moved from the battlefield into communities across the nation.
The Brief, Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era
Author: Douglas R. Egerton
Pubpsher: Bloomsbury Publishing USA
A groundbreaking new history, telling the stories of hundreds of African-American activists and officeholders who risked their lives for equality-in the face of murderous violence-in the years after the Civil War. By 1870, just five years after Confederate surrender and thirteen years after the Dred Scott decision ruled blacks ineligible for citizenship, Congressional action had ended slavery and given the vote to black men. That same year, Hiram Revels and Joseph Hayne Rainey became the first African-American U.S. senator and congressman respectively. In South Carolina, only twenty years after the death of arch-secessionist John C. Calhoun, a black man, Jasper J. Wright, took a seat on the state's Supreme Court. Not even the most optimistic abolitionists thought such milestones would occur in their lifetimes. The brief years of Reconstruction marked the United States' most progressive moment prior to the civil rights movement. Previous histories of Reconstruction have focused on Washington politics. But in this sweeping, prodigiously researched narrative, Douglas Egerton brings a much bigger, even more dramatic story into view, exploring state and local politics and tracing the struggles of some fifteen hundred African-American officeholders, in both the North and South, who fought entrenched white resistance. Tragically, their movement was met by ruthless violence-not just riotous mobs, but also targeted assassination. With stark evidence, Egerton shows that Reconstruction, often cast as a “failure” or a doomed experiment, was rolled back by murderous force. The Wars of Reconstruction is a major and provocative contribution to American history.
Widely acclaimed at the time of its publication, the life story of the most controversial, volatile, misunderstood provision of the Bill of Rights. At a time of increasing gun violence in America, Waldman’s book provoked a wide range of discussion. This book looks at history to provide some surprising, illuminating answers. The Amendment was written to calm public fear that the new national government would crush the state militias made up of all (white) adult men—who were required to own a gun to serve. Waldman recounts the raucous public debate that has surrounded the amendment from its inception to the present. As the country spread to the Western frontier, violence spread too. But through it all, gun control was abundant. In the twentieth century, with Prohibition and gangsterism, the first federal control laws were passed. In all four separate times the Supreme Court ruled against a constitutional right to own a gun. The present debate picked up in the 1970s—part of a backlash to the liberal 1960s and a resurgence of libertarianism. A newly radicalized NRA entered the campaign to oppose gun control and elevate the status of an obscure constitutional provision. In 2008, in a case that reached the Court after a focused drive by conservative lawyers, the US Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the Constitution protects an individual right to gun ownership. Famous for his theory of “originalism,” Justice Antonin Scalia twisted it in this instance to base his argument on contemporary conditions. In The Second Amendment: A Biography, Michael Waldman shows that our view of the amendment is set, at each stage, not by a pristine constitutional text, but by the push and pull, the rough and tumble of political advocacy and public agitation.
Race, Violence, and the American South after the Civil War
Author: Carole Emberton
Pubpsher: University of Chicago Press
In the months after the end of the Civil War, there was one word on everyone’s lips: redemption. From the fiery language of Radical Republicans calling for a reconstruction of the former Confederacy to the petitions of those individuals who had worked the land as slaves to the white supremacists who would bring an end to Reconstruction in the late 1870s, this crucial concept informed the ways in which many people—both black and white, northerner and southerner—imagined the transformation of the American South. Beyond Redemption explores how the violence of a protracted civil war shaped the meaning of freedom and citizenship in the new South. Here, Carole Emberton traces the competing meanings that redemption held for Americans as they tried to come to terms with the war and the changing social landscape. While some imagined redemption from the brutality of slavery and war, others—like the infamous Ku Klux Klan—sought political and racial redemption for their losses through violence. Beyond Redemption merges studies of race and American manhood with an analysis of post-Civil War American politics to offer unconventional and challenging insight into the violence of Reconstruction.
American constitutional lawyers and legal historians routinely assert that the Supreme Court's state action doctrine halted Reconstruction in its tracks. But it didn't. Rethinking the Judicial Settlement of Reconstruction demolishes the conventional wisdom - and puts a constructive alternative in its place. Pamela Brandwein unveils a lost jurisprudence of rights that provided expansive possibilities for protecting blacks' physical safety and electoral participation, even as it left public accommodation rights undefended. She shows that the Supreme Court supported a Republican coalition and left open ample room for executive and legislative action. Blacks were abandoned, but by the president and Congress, not the Court. Brandwein unites close legal reading of judicial opinions (some hitherto unknown), sustained historical work, the study of political institutions, and the sociology of knowledge. This book explodes tired old debates and will provoke new ones.
For a generation, scholarship on the Reconstruction era has rightly focused on the struggles of the recently emancipated for a meaningful freedom and defined its success or failure largely in those terms. In The Ordeal of the Reunion, Mark Wahlgren Summers goes beyond this vitally important question, focusing on Reconstruction's need to form an enduring Union without sacrificing the framework of federalism and republican democracy. Assessing the era nationally, Summers emphasizes the variety of conservative strains that confined the scope of change, highlights the war's impact and its aftermath, and brings the West and foreign policy into an integrated narrative. In sum, this book offers a fresh explanation for Reconstruction's demise and a case for its essential successes as well as its great failures. Indeed, this book demonstrates the extent to which the victors' aims in 1865 were met--and at what cost. Summers depicts not just a heroic, tragic moment with equal rights advanced and then betrayed but a time of achievement and consolidation, in which nationhood and emancipation were placed beyond repeal and the groundwork was laid for a stronger, if not better, America to come.
The Two Foundings and American Political Development
Author: Elvin T. Lim
Pubpsher: Oxford University Press
Category: Political Science
The United States has had not one, but two Foundings. The Constitution produced by the Second Founding came to be only after a vociferous battle between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. The Federalists favored a relatively powerful central government, while the Anti-Federalists distrusted the concentration of power in one place and advocated the preservation of sovereignty in the states as crucibles of post-revolutionary republicanism -- the legacy of the First Founding. This philosophical cleavage has been at the heart of practically every major political conflict in U.S. history, and lives on today in debates between modern liberals and conservatives. In The Lovers' Quarrel, Elvin T. Lim presents a systematic and innovative analysis of this perennial struggle. The framers of the second Constitution, the Federalists, were not operating in an ideational or institutional vacuum; rather, the document they drafted and ratified was designed to remedy the perceived flaws of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. To decouple the Two Foundings is to appreciate that there is no such thing as "original meaning," only original dissent. Because the Anti-Federalists insisted that prior and democratically sanctioned understandings of federalism and union had to be negotiated and partially grafted onto the new Constitution, the Constitution's Articles and the Bill of Rights do not cohere as well together as has conventionally been thought. Rather, they represent two antithetical orientations toward power, liberty, and republicanism. The altercation over the necessity of the Second Founding generated coherent and self-contained philosophies that would become the core of American political thought, reproduced and transmitted across two centuries, whether the victors were the neo-Federalists (such as during the Civil War and the New Deal) or the neo-Anti-Federalists (such as during the Jacksonian era and the Reagan Revolution). The Second Founding -- the sole "founding" that we generally speak of -- would become a template for the unique, prototypically American species of politics and political debate. Because of it, American political development occurs only after the political entrepreneurs of each generation lock horns in a Lovers' Quarrel about the principles of one of the Two Foundings, and succeed in justifying and forging a durable expansion or contraction of federal authority.
Release on 2015-05-04 | by Sharon D. Kennedy-Nolle
Race, Gender, and Citizenship in the Postwar South
Author: Sharon D. Kennedy-Nolle
Pubpsher: UNC Press Books
Category: Literary Criticism
After the Civil War, the South was divided into five military districts occupied by Union forces. Out of these regions, a remarkable group of writers emerged. Experiencing the long-lasting ramifications of Reconstruction firsthand, many of these writers sought to translate the era's promise into practice. In fiction, newspaper journalism, and other forms of literature, authors including George Washington Cable, Albion Tourgee, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and Octave Thanet imagined a new South in which freedpeople could prosper as citizens with agency. Radically re-envisioning the role of women in the home, workforce, and marketplace, these writers also made gender a vital concern of their work. Still, working from the South, the authors were often subject to the whims of a northern literary market. Their visions of citizenship depended on their readership's deference to conventional claims of duty, labor, reputation, and property ownership. The circumstances surrounding the production and circulation of their writing blunted the full impact of the period's literary imagination and fostered a drift into the stereotypical depictions and other strictures that marked the rise of Jim Crow. Sharon D. Kennedy-Nolle blends literary history with archival research to assess the significance of Reconstruction literature as a genre. Founded on witness and dream, the pathbreaking work of its writers made an enduring, if at times contradictory, contribution to American literature and history.
With its fiery crosses and nightriders in pointed hoods and flowing robes, the Ku Klux Klan remains a recurring nightmare in American life. What began in the earliest post–Civil War days as a social group engaging in drunken hijinks at the expense of perceived inferiors soon turned into a murderous paramilitary organization determined to resist the “evils” of radical Reconstruction. For six generations and counting, the Klan has inflicted misery and death on countless victims nationwide and since the early 1920s, has expanded into distant corners of the globe. From the Klan’s post–Civil War lynchings in support of Jim Crow laws, to its bloody stand against desegregation during the 1960s, to its continued violence in the militia movement at the turn of the 21st century, this revealing volume chronicles the complete history of the world’s oldest surviving terrorist organization from 1866 to the present. The story is told without embellishment because, as this work demonstrates, the truth about the Ku Klux Klan is grim enough.