In this masterful portrait of life in Savannah before, during, and after the Civil War, prize-winning historian Jacqueline Jones transports readers to the balmy, raucous streets of that fabled Southern port city. Here is a subtle and rich social history that weaves together stories of the everyday lives of blacks and whites, rich and poor, men and women from all walks of life confronting the transformations that would alter their city forever. Deeply researched and vividly written, Saving Savannah is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the Civil War years.
MacArthur fellow and Bancroft Prize winning historian Jones (Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow) combines comprehensive research and evocative prose in this study of a Southern city where complex rules of social and economic hierarchy blurred the lines between slavery and freedom well before the Civil War. The prosperous city and labor-intensive rice plantations depended as much on white workers, who tended to be fractious, as on black slaves. At the same time, some blacks, free before the war or emancipated by it, were determined to live on their own terms, economically, socially and, after 1865, politically. But the Civil War brought Northerners into the mix soldiers, teachers, missionaries, businessmen motivated by varying combinations of morality and enterprise. After the war, they colluded with Southern whites to keep blacks from attaining full self-determination through conflicts waged in streets and courtrooms, churches and schools and workplaces. Violence and chicanery sustained traditional forms of power, though that power now came through the ballot box and the jury box. With penetrating understanding Jones describes and analyzes the complex processes that impoverished black society but never succeeded in destroying it. 16 pages of photos, 5 maps.