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The Wars of Reconstruction

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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.

About the Author

Douglas R. Egerton is a professor of history at LeMoyne College. He is the author of six books, including Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War, He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey, Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802, and Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America. He lives near Syracuse, New York.


The history of [the] era [of Reconstruction] has rarely if ever been as well told as it is in Douglas R. Egerton's forcefully argued and crisply written The Wars of Reconstruction. Wall Street Journal Key figures develop into rich characters, balancing Egerton's own objective, wide-seeing perspective, which even explores the revisionist Reconstruction histories that informed the American consciousness, particularly the pernicious effects of influential racist cinema. All told, Egerton's study is an adept exploration of a past era of monumental relevance to the present and is recommended for any student of political conflict, social upheaval, and the perennial struggle against oppression. Publishers Weekly [A] fierce corrective ... Egerton's book is thorough and cogent in recreating the stories of these fearless, articulate and conscientious black activists and politicians ... Bookforum A richly detailed history ... An illuminating view of an era whose reform spirit would live on in the 1960s civil rights movement. Kirkus Reviews Understanding issues that continue to roil American politics--the definition of citizenship, the meaning of equality, the relative powers of the national and state governments--requires knowledge of Reconstruction. For this reason alone, the appearance of Douglas R. Egerton's The Wars of Reconstruction is especially welcome ... its dramatic account will challenge and enlighten ... Egerton paints a dramatic portrait of on-the-ground struggles for equality in an era of great hope and brutal disappointment. -- Eric Foner New York Times Book Review The Wars of Reconstruction is one of the best and most readable studies of that era to appear in many years. Its emphasis on the active role that African Americans played in this crucial period is especially welcome. Douglas Egerton has given us another gripping, thoughtful, and deeply researched book about slavery and the fight for freedom. -- Bruce Levin, author of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF DIXIE: THE CIVIL WAR AND THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION THAT TRANSFORMED THE SOUTH Offers a fresh perspective on why the grand experiment of Reconstruction failed and how it took nearly a century afterward for African Americans to gain any semblance of equal rights in the South. Bookpage This is a very 'Du Boisian' work, sharing the great scholar's view that Reconstruction wasn't just about rebuilding the Southern economy, but reconstructing democracy throughout the US. Recounting Northern blacks' struggles for voting rights and the national quest for universal public education bolsters Du Bois's insight, as do sections assessing Reconstruction in scholarly and popular memory. Through detailed evaluations of officeholders and other activists, Egerton asserts that Reconstruction was the most progressive era in US history. Proponents of the 1960s and, especially, the New Deal may differ, but Egerton's strong case stimulates debate. Summing Up: Recommended. -- T. P. Johnson, University of Massachusetts, Boston CHOICE [Egerton's] crisp, immersive history follows an army of black activists, politicians, ex-slaves, educators, clergy, veterans and their white allies who hoped to remake the devastated South. The Atlantic, Best Books of 2014

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