Splendid Failure: Postwar Reconstruction in the American South

Overview

Rich with insight, Michael Fitzgerald's new interpretation of Reconstruction shows how the internal dynamics of the first movement for black freedom played into the hands of white racist reactionaries in the South. Splendid Failure describes the skill with which the postwar freedpeople pursued an agenda of racial justice, accurately perceiving that this was the only issue that mattered in the New South. But in acting on this insight-by demanding representation in office and greater civil rights protections-they ...
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Overview

Rich with insight, Michael Fitzgerald's new interpretation of Reconstruction shows how the internal dynamics of the first movement for black freedom played into the hands of white racist reactionaries in the South. Splendid Failure describes the skill with which the postwar freedpeople pursued an agenda of racial justice, accurately perceiving that this was the only issue that mattered in the New South. But in acting on this insight-by demanding representation in office and greater civil rights protections-they antagonized the Northern support they needed to survive, and fed a gathering racial backlash. Thus, Mr. Fitzgerald argues, Southern Republicans set the stage for the explosion that swept them from power and resulted in Northern acquiescence to the bloody repression of voting rights. The failed program led to another century of inequality for Southern blacks.
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Editorial Reviews

H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online
Reading Splendid Failure was splendid. The prose is quick, at times witty, and always readable. It reminded me of why I not only love to research in the period, but teach it as well.
Midwest Book Review
Excellent survey...offers depth and detail especially suitable for classroom debate and discussion....Recommended for any college-level collection.
H-Net Book Review
Reading Splendid Failure was splendid. The prose is quick, at times witty, and always readable. It reminded me of why I not only love to research in the period, but teach it as well.
Journal of Southern History
Fitzgerald's deep learning and distinctive interpretation make this a book for the seasoned professional as well.
—Patrick G. Williams
Christopher Waldrep
A useful introduction to the dramatic and bloody tragedy of Reconstruction.
Thomas Pegram
Fitzgerald . . . has pulled off the enormously difficult task of writing a short, clear, analytically distinctive history of Reconstruction.
John C. Rodrigue
Engagingly written . . . can be read with profit by students, general readers, and specialists.
Mark Wahlgren Summers
Humane, temperate, and succinct . . . Splendid Failure may be the best short introduction to Southern Reconstruction we're likely to get.
Susan O'Donovan
An engaging and crisply-written overview. . . . Sure to become a fixture in college classrooms and on scholars' shelves.
Choice
The author excels. . . . The bibliographic essay also provides an invaluable service in its discussion of the massive literature on the era. The work is well written and will serve as an excellent supplement to any collection on Reconstruction. . . . Highly Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
Midwest Book Review
Excellent survey . . . offers depth and detail especially suitable for classroom debate and discussion. . . . Recommended for any college-level collection.
Virginia Quarterly Review
Eminently readable analysis. . . . Concern with . . . the possibility of establishing democracy amid postwar violence make[s] the book especially timely.
The Alabama Review
Splendid Failure pulls the last two decades of Reconstruction scholarship into an effective single volume on the subject. . . . Fitzgerald has produced a readable and concise volume that will work effectively in an undergraduate classroom and sit comfortable on a lay reader's bookshelf.
CHOICE
The author excels. . . . The bibliographic essay also provides an invaluable service in its discussion of the massive literature on the era. The work is well written and will serve as an excellent supplement to any collection on Reconstruction. . . . Highly Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online
Reading Splendid Failure was splendid. The prose is quick, at times witty, and always readable. It reminded me of why I not only love to research in the period, but teach it as well.
ForeWord Reviews
Fitzgerald offers a solid understanding of the intricacy of social relationships . . . dense, thoughtful reconsideration of these turbulent events and their results.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566637343
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 5/28/2007
  • Series: American Ways Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.77 (w) x 8.65 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael W. Fitzgerald teaches American history at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he lives. He is the author of prizewinning articles on aspects of Reconstruction and in two other books has written on the politics of emancipation and of agricultural change in the post—Civil War period.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xi

1 To Civil War: What Slavery Did 3

Resistance, unity, and diversity in the enslaved population

White Southerners and the pro-slavery consensus: the plantation elite and the nonslaveholding majority. Whigs, Democrats, and the struggle over secession

The crisis of up-country society and the emergence of Unionist disaffection

Slavery under the strain of war

2 National Politics: Andrew Johnson and the Lost Compromise 22

The Northern majority moves toward emancipation

Presidential Reconstruction from Lincoln to Johnson, Black Codes, and Conservative rule

Johnson vs. the Republican Congress: the Northern electorate decides

Black suffrage and Military Reconstruction

3 Emancipation and Terror in the Plantation South 47

Rebuilding the slave-style plantation-gang labor and tight control

Politicization of the freedpeople and the transition to decentralized tenant farming

Sharecropping and the emergence of Klan-style terrorism

4 Establishing the Reconstruction Governments 72

Congressional Reconstruction, goals, and mechanics

Institutionalizing change at the constitutional conventions

The interracial Republican coalition

Conservative backlash

Grant's election and the confirmation of the Reconstruction order

5 Railroads, Development, and Reconstructing Society 96

The search for native white support

Whiggish moderates and economic development: railroads as Southern panacea

Issuing bonds and financial complications

The corruption issue, civil rights, and the national context

6 Race, Faction, and Grant 119

The Grant administration and moderate whites

Radical reaction and black empowerment

Thestruggle for leadership and federal patronage, faction, and class in the black community

The Liberal Republican revolt, the Klan issue, and Grant's reelection

7 Gender, Race, and Civil Society in the Reconstruction South 143

Freedwomen, domestic work, and family life

Local government, society, and public education in the Reconstruction South

Taxes, debt, law enforcement, and the legal structure of equality

8 The Politics of Slaughter: Depression and Reaction 165

Consolidation of African-American political influence

The panic of 1873

Resurgence of racist violence: the White Leagues

Collapse of the Northern Republican majority and abandonment of civil rights protection

The Democratic sweep of 1874, North and South, and its consequences

9 Endgame in South Carolina: 1877 and After 194

Governor Chamberlain and the reform initiative

The limits of Republican retrenchment and bipartisan anti-corruption politics

Terrorism, Rutherford B. Hayes, and the end of Reconstruction

Toward Jim Crow and the civil rights movement to come

A Note on Sources 213

Index 219

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