The aftermath of the Civil War comes to dramatic life in this sweeping new collection of firsthand writing from the Reconstruction era—featuring pieces by Frederick Douglass, Frances Harper, and more
“Very, very good. . . . Reconstruction conveys the struggle for racial equality better than many other anthologies documenting the era.” —The Wall Street Journal
Few periods in American history are more consequential but less understood than Reconstruction, the tumultuous twelve years after Appomattox, when the battered nation sought to reconstitute itself and confront the legacy of two centuries of slavery.
This anthology brings together more than one hundred contemporary letters, diary entries, interviews, testimonies, and articles by ordinary men and women and well-known figures such as Frederick Douglass, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Andrew Johnson, Thaddeus Stevens, Ulysses S. Grant, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mark Twain, and Albion Tourgée.
Through their eyes readers experience the fierce contest between President Andrew Johnson and the Radical Republicans resulting in the nation's first presidential impeachment; the adoption of the revolutionary 14th and 15th Amendments; the first achievements of black political power; and the murderous terrorism of the Klan and other groups that, combined with northern weariness, indifference, and hostility, eventually resulted in the restoration of white supremacy in the South.
Throughout, Americans confront the essential questions left unresolved by the defeat of secession: What system of labor would replace slavery, and what would become of the southern plantations? Would the war end in the restoration of a union of sovereign states, or in the creation of a truly national government? What would citizenship mean after emancipation, and what civil rights would the freed people gain? Would suffrage be extended to African American men, and to all women?