A 2005 non-fiction book by Eric Foner.< read all 1 reviews
Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind I remember reading about emancipation and reconstruction in my high school history class. To the best of my recollection, the sum total of the coverage devoted to these issues in that high school textbook might have been a dozen pages or so. My ideas about these issues, formed about four decades ago, have pretty much remained with me to this day. In his new book "Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction" Eric Foner, a Professor of History at Columbia University, shatters most of my pre-concieved notions about these monumental events in American history. It just wasn't that simple. Drawing on a wide range of long-neglected documents, Foner illustrates how African-Americans actually played a much more pivotal role in the events that were unfolding than was previously thought. "Forever Free" is a real eye-opener!
Although the reality is that employment opportunities for the vast majority of African-Americans would continue to be quite limited during the period of Reconstruction I was surprised to learn just how many former slaves would go on to positions of responsibility and prominence during this period. At the conclusion of the Civil War large numbers of former slaves poured into cities and towns all over the South. Once there these black men and women quickly established their own schools, churches, hospitals and fraternal societies. Some of the men harbored political aspirations and many were elected to posts at all levels of government. Still others dreamed of owning and working their own piece of land. These people knew what they wanted. All over America the perception of Black Americans was changing and for the most part changing for the better.
What makes "Forever Free" a truly unique book are the six visual essays offered by Joshua Brown. Each of these essays includes important illustrations and photographs from the period. These images will impress upon the reader that as time went on African-Americans were being taken much more seriously not only by local and national newspapers and magazines but also by large segments of the public at large as well. I particularly appreciated the powerful images of the legendary Harper's Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast. For the first time in American history, black people were becoming a force to be reckoned with. For an all too brief period of time the future looked cautiously optimistic. "Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction" is a thoughtful and well written book that challenges much of what most of us learned in school. In my view this is is book well worth investing your time in. Very highly recommended!
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From one of our most distinguished historians, a new examination of the vitally important years of Emancipation and Reconstruction during and immediately following the Civil War-a necessary reconsideration that emphasizes the era's political and cultural meaning for today's America.
In Forever Free, Eric Foner overturns numerous assumptions growing out of the traditional understanding of the period, which is based almost exclusively on white sources and shaped by (often unconscious) racism. He presents the period as a time of determination, especially on the part of recently emancipated black Americans, to put into effect the principles of equal rights and citizenship for all.
Drawing on a wide range of long-neglected documents, he places a new emphasis on the centrality of the black experience to an understanding of the era. We see African Americans as active agents in overthrowing slavery, in helping win the Civil War, and-even more actively-in shaping Reconstruction and creating a legacy long obscured and misunderstood. Foner makes clear how, by war's end, freed slaves in the South built on networks of church and family in order to exercise their right of suffrage as well as gain access to education, land, and employment.
He shows us that the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and renewed acts of racial violence were retaliation for the progress made by blacks soon after the war. He refutes lingering misconceptions about Reconstruction, including the attribution of its ills to ...