The story of the Civil War and Reconstruction in Greene County, Georgia, is a remarkable tale of both fundamental change and essential continuity. In How Curious a Land, Jonathan Bryant follows the county's social, economic, and legal transformation from a wealthy, self-sufficient plantation economy based on slavery to a largely impoverished, economically dependent community dominated by a new commercial class of merchants and lawyers. Emancipated slaves made up two-thirds of the county's population at the end of the Civil War, and thanks to an able, charismatic, and politically active leadership, they enjoyed early success in pressing for their rights. But their gains, says Bryant, were only temporary, because the white elite retained control of the legal system and used it effectively against blacks. Law also helped shape the course of economic change as, for example, postbellum laws designed to benefit the new commercial elite ensured poverty for most of the county's small farmers, both black and white, by relegating them to the status of sharecroppers and tenants. As a result, the county's wealth, though greatly diminished in the postbellum years, remained concentrated in the hands of a small elite.
|Publisher:||The University of North Carolina Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Jonathan M. Bryant is associate professor of history at Georgia Southern University.
What People are Saying About This
An excellent analysis of the watershed years of the nineteenth century.Atlanta History
A readable, intelligent book that makes a worthy contribution to a substantial body of literature.Journal of American History
[A] deeply researched and eloquently written book. . . . [A] fine work, which deserves more than a strictly academic audience.Law and History Review
A deftly conceived and elegantly written local history, with commendable emphasis on a number of important and sharply characterized individuals.Choice
Offers rich insights into the law and compelling glimpses into the lives of ordinary folk.Journal of Southern History
One of the finest histories of a southern community ever written. Bryant never forgets that the historian's first responsibility is to tell a storyand to tell it well.Daniel W. Crofts, author of Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis
In this study of Greene County, Georgia, before and after the Civil War, Jonathan Bryant achieves his ambitious goal: to describe 'law in action, law in the midst of people, law shaping and being shaped by individuals in their communities' during a time of tumultuous transformation. Written with uncommon grace, this study of one corner of the Black Belt has broad implications for mid-nineteenth century Southern history.Dan T. Carter, Emory University
Jonathan Bryant's book is in many ways a model history of a Southern place. It is carefully researched, thoughtfully considered, and written with sensitivity. . . . Bryant's book makes a familiar history more humanand all the more bittersweet as a result.Virginia Quarterly Review