A Short History of Reconstruction, Updated Edition

A Short History of Reconstruction, Updated Edition

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0062370863

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From the “preeminent historian of Reconstruction” (New York Times Book Review), a newly updated abridged edition of the prize-winning classic work on the post-Civil War period which shaped modern America.

In this updated edition of the abridged Reconstruction, Eric Foner redefines how the post-Civil War period was viewed.

Reconstruction chronicles the way in which Americans—black and white—responded to the unprecedented changes unleashed by the war and the end of slavery. It addresses the quest of emancipated slaves’ searching for economic autonomy and equal citizenship, and describes the remodeling of Southern society; the evolution of racial attitudes and patterns of race relations; and the emergence of a national state possessing vastly expanded authority and one committed, for a time, to the principle of equal rights for all Americans.

This “masterful treatment of one of the most complex periods of American history” (New Republic) remains the standard work on the wrenching post-Civil War period—an era whose legacy still reverberates in the United States today.















Carolina in 1866 hoping to plant Sea Island cotton. Like other aspiring Northern planters, he failed and turned to politics for a living. For Chamberlain, reform offered a way to strengthen white control of the Republican party and woo respectable members of the Democracy. Earlier in the decade he had served as vice president of a Taxpayers’ Convention and had once offered to run for governor “to keep the party from going over to negroism. “ Chamberlain promised sweeping changes to ensure

education, 36, 43—44; and equality before the law, 34; and Johnson, 84; and the legacy of Reconstruction, 255; and religion, 40—12; and violence, 37, 52–54 Emancipation Proclamation, 2, 3—4, 16, 23 Enforcement Acts [1870, 1871, 1875], 195–97, 224–25, 233, 234 Equal Rights Association, 193 Equality before the law: and black politics, 49, 50–52, 126–28; Douglass’s views about, 12; and education, 66; and emancipation. 34; and the Fourteenth Amendment, 114–17; and the Freedmen’s Bureau, 67–68,

black experience, modern scholars tend to view emancipation itself as among the most revolutionary aspects of the period. This book is an abridgment of my Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution. 1863–1877, a comprehensive modern account of the period. The larger work necessarily touched on a multitude of issues, but certain broad themes unified the narrative and remain crucial in this shorter version. The first is the centrality of the black experience. Rather than passive victims of

and enjoyed virtually no opportunities for the accumulation of property or upward mobility. The black urban community contained no well-established elite of wealthy bankers and merchants and found most white-collar positions closed to it. Only a tiny minority achieved professional status during Reconstruction, although the number of lawyers and doctors increased in the 1870s thanks to the new black universities. Artisans, perhaps a quarter of employed blacks in most Southern towns and cities,

inflicted outright fraud on illiterate tenants. As cotton prices declined during the 1870s, many tenants, unable to settle their accounts at year’s end, carried indebtedness over to the new season. To obtain additional credit, they were compelled to produce more and more cotton. For the region as a whole, the crop lien produced a growing overreliance on cotton and neglect of food, a pattern already clear by the 1870s. “The credit system,” reported a resident of Mississippi, “has been pushed to

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