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At Freedom's Door: African American Founding Fathers and Lawyers in Reconstruction South Carolina
     

At Freedom's Door: African American Founding Fathers and Lawyers in Reconstruction South Carolina

by James Lowell Underwood (Editor), Eric Foner (Introduction), W. Lewis Burke (Editor)
 

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A surprisingly accessible history of politics and race in Reconstruction-era South Carolina. It is not often that regional history has much appeal to anyone beyond the scholars who write it and those who are being written about. But here is an exception, seven essays on the role black leaders played in the rebuilding of South Carolina following the Civil War. Its editors, Burke (Law/Univ. of South Carolina) and Underwood (Law/Univ. of South Carolina), offer strong proof that scholarship need not be dry and uninteresting, anymore than regional history need be marginal history. This is especially true when the subject matter is Reconstruction, which here is reexamined, less as a playground for corruption and incompetence, and more as a "glorious failure." Why South Carolina? South Carolina had more black officials (315) than any other state during Reconstruction because it had the largest black population. Indeed, at one point in the 1870s South Carolina had six black congressmen, a figure that hasn't been matched since. Many of these men however, died embittered, impoverished, or both. Richard Greener, for example, was the first black professor at the University of South Carolina. A diplomat and a domestic government official, he held numerous postings in a long career that included a position as the US Consul in Vladivostok, Russia. But what is best remembered about him, and what saves him from total obscurity, is the fact that he was the first black Harvard graduate. Justice Jonathan Jasper Wright, the first black to serve on a state supreme court, was forced to resign over unproved allegations he accepted a $2,500 bribe. Many of these accounts have a somewhatsaccharinequality to them that could easily descend to bathos, but Underwood and Burke exercise enough restraint in their narratives to prevent that. In the end, good writing and good scholarship triumph.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781570033575
Publisher:
University of South Carolina Press
Publication date:
08/28/2000
Pages:
269
Product dimensions:
6.22(w) x 9.28(h) x 1.13(d)

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