New Orleans after the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom

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Overview

We often think of Reconstruction as an unfinished revolution. Justin A. Nystrom's original study of the aftermath of emancipation in New Orleans takes a different perspective, arguing that the politics of the era were less of a binary struggle over political supremacy and morality than they were about a quest for stability in a world rendered uncertain and unfamiliar by the collapse of slavery.

Commercially vibrant and racially unique before the Civil War, New Orleans after secession and following Appomattox provides an especially interesting case study in political and social adjustment. Taking a generational view and using longitudinal studies of some of the major political players of the era, Nystrom asks fundamentally new questions about life in the post—Civil War South: Who would emerge as leaders in the prostrate but economically ambitious city? How would whites who differed over secession come together over postwar policy? Where would the mixed-race middle class and newly freed slaves fit in the new order? Nystrom follows not only the period's broad contours and occasional bloody conflicts but also the coalition building and the often surprising liaisons that formed to address these and related issues. His unusual approach breaks free from the worn stereotypes of Reconstruction to explore the uncertainty, self-doubt, and moral complexity that haunted Southerners after the war.

This probing look at a generation of New Orleanians and how they redefined a society shattered by the Civil War engages historical actors on their own terms and makes real the human dimension of life during this difficult period in American history.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American History - Alecia P. Long

[A] richly detailed, thought-provoking study of politics in postbellum New Orleans... Breaks new ground and will generate fresh thinking abou Reconstruction in New Orleans and the nation.

Southern Historian - Joshua Butler

Nystrom takes the reader on the journey from slavery to freedom, emancipation to suffrage then back into a harsh period of disfranchisement by the end of the nineteenth century... [He] moves beyond previous revisionist studies on Reconstruction by examining indicators of change by way of those making the decisions.

Choice

An excellent choice for any collection in U.S. history.

H-Net Reviews
A fascinating and complex story that Nystrom's narrative incisively clarifies to a degree no work before has managed to accomplish.

— Richard Kilbourne

American Historical Review
Nystrom now adds nuance to these studies by providing a close biographical reading of several New Orleanians as they struggled with questions of secession, occupation, emancipation, racial equality, and political division.

— Anthony J. Stanonis

H-CivWar, H-Net Reviews - Richard Kilbourne

A fascinating and complex story that Nystrom's narrative incisively clarifies to a degree no work before has managed to accomplish.

Journal of American History
A richly detailed, thought-provoking study of politics in postbellum New Orleans... Breaks new ground and will generate fresh thinking about Reconstruction in New Orleans and the nation.
Southern Historian
Nystrom takes the reader on the journey from slavery to freedom, emancipation to suffrage then back into a harsh period of disfranchisement by the end of the nineteenth century... He moves beyond previous revisionist studies on Reconstruction by examining indicators of change by way of those making the decisions.
American Historical Review - Anthony J. Stanonis
Nystrom now adds nuance to these studies by providing a close biographical reading of several New Orleanians as they struggled with questions of secession, occupation, emancipation, racial equality, and political division.
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society - Aaron Astor
This is an important book for understanding postwar urban politics in the largest city in the South. It is deeply researched, splendidly written, and well contextualized within the larger historiography of Reconstruction.
Choice
An excellent choice for any collection in U.S. history.
H-Net Reviews H-CivWar
A fascinating and complex story that Nystrom's narrative incisively clarifies to a degree no work before has managed to accomplish.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801894343
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 5/6/2010
  • Pages: 324
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Justin A. Nystrom is an assistant professor of history at Loyola University of New Orleans.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Introduction: Embracing the Ambiguities of an Uncertain Age 1

1 Poor New Orleans! 1861-1862 6

2 The Dawning of New Realities, 1862-1865 28

3 Homecomings and Personal Reconstructions, 1865-1868 52

4 Carpetbagger Prince, 1869-1872 82

5 Lessons of the Street, 1872-1873 115

6 Caste and Conflict, 1873-1874 140

7 The Redeemer's Carnival, 1874-1877 160

8 The Season of Redeemer Discontent, 1878-1886 186

9 A Hard-Handed Stability, 1886-1898 211

Conclusion: Reconsidering the Lessons of Reconstruction 239

Appendixes

A Sample of "Committee of Fifty-One" Members of the February 18, 1872, Reform Party Meeting 248

B White League Roster Sample 254

C Louisiana Senate, 1880 versus 1892 266

Notes 273

Biographical Sketches of Key Figures 305

Sources and Methodology 309

Index 315

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