Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction: 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.
From the “preeminent historian of Reconstruction” (New York Times Book Review), a newly updated abridged edition of the prize-winning classic work on the post-Civil War period which shaped modern America.
In this updated edition of the abridged Reconstruction, Eric Foner redefines how the post-Civil War period was viewed.
Reconstruction chronicles the way in which Americans—black and white—responded to the unprecedented changes unleashed by the war and the end of slavery. It addresses the quest of emancipated slaves’ searching for economic autonomy and equal citizenship, and describes the remodeling of Southern society; the evolution of racial attitudes and patterns of race relations; and the emergence of a national state possessing vastly expanded authority and one committed, for a time, to the principle of equal rights for all Americans.
This “masterful treatment of one of the most complex periods of American history” (New Republic) remains the standard work on the wrenching post-Civil War period—an era whose legacy still reverberates in the United States today.
Foner, Eric. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010.
Selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, this landmark work gives us a definitive account of Lincoln’s lifelong engagement with the nation’s critical issue: American slavery. A master historian, Eric Foner draws Lincoln and the broader history of the period into perfect balance. We see Lincoln, a pragmatic politician grounded in principle, deftly navigating the dynamic politics of antislavery, secession, and civil war. Lincoln’s greatness emerges from his capacity for moral and political growth. 16 pages of black-and-white illustrations; 3 maps.
Perman, Michael. Struggle For Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
Around 1900, the southern states embarked on a series of political campaigns aimed at disfranchising large numbers of voters. By 1908, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia had succeeded in depriving virtually all African Americans, and a large number of lower-class whites, of the voting rights they had possessed since Reconstruction-rights they would not regain for over half a century. Struggle for Mastery is the most complete and systematic study to date of the history of disfranchisement in the South. After examining the origins and objectives of disfranchisement, Michael Perman traces the process as it unfolded state by state. Because he examines each state within its region-wide context, he is able to identify patterns and connections that have previously gone unnoticed. Broadening the context even further, Perman explores the federal government’s seeming acquiescence in this development, the relationship between disfranchisement and segregation, and the political system that emerged after the decimation of the South’s electorate. The result is an insightful and persuasive interpretation of this highly significant, yet generally misunderstood, episode in U.S. history.
Cohen, Lizabeth. Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. Cambridge University Press, 2014.
This book examines how it was possible and what it meant for ordinary factory workers to become effective unionists and national political participants by the mid-1930s. We follow Chicago workers as they make choices about whether to attend ethnic benefit society meetings or to go to the movies, whether to shop in local neighborhood stores or patronize the new A & P. As they made daily decisions like these, they declared their loyalty in ways that would ultimately have political significance. When the depression worsened in the 1930s, workers adopted new ideological perspectives and overcame longstanding divisions among themselves to mount new kinds of collective action. Chicago workers’ experiences all converged to make them into New Deal Democrats and CIO unionists. First printed in 1990, Making a New Deal has become an established classic in American history. The second edition includes a new preface by Lizabeth Cohen.
Pegram, Thomas R. One Hundred Percent American: The Rebirth and Decline of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2011.
In the 1920s, a revived Ku Klux Klan burst into prominence as a self-styled defender of American values, a magnet for white Protestant community formation, and a would-be force in state and national politics. But the hooded bubble burst at mid-decade, and the social movement that had attracted several million members and additional millions of sympathizers collapsed into insignificance. Since the 1990s, intensive community-based historical studies have reinterpreted the 1920s Klan. Rather than the violent, racist extremists of popular lore and current observation, 1920s Klansmen appear in these works as more mainstream figures. Sharing a restrictive American identity with most native-born white Protestants after World War I, hooded knights pursued fraternal fellowship, community activism, local reforms, and paid close attention to public education, law enforcement (especially Prohibition), and moral/sexual orthodoxy. No recent general history of the 1920s Klan movement reflects these new perspectives on the Klan. One Hundred Percent American incorporates them while also highlighting the racial and religious intolerance, violent outbursts, and political ambition that aroused widespread opposition to the Invisible Empire. Balanced and comprehensive, One Hundred Percent American explains the Klan’s appeal, its limitations, and the reasons for its rapid decline in a society confronting the reality of cultural and religious pluralism.
Foley, Neil. The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
In a book that fundamentally challenges our understanding of race in the United States, Neil Foley unravels the complex history of ethnicity in the cotton culture of central Texas. This engrossing narrative, spanning the period from the Civil War through the collapse of tenant farming in the early 1940s, bridges the intellectual chasm between African American and Southern history on one hand and Chicano and Southwestern history on the other. The White Scourge describes a unique borderlands region, where the cultures of the South, West, and Mexico overlap, to provide a deeper understanding of the process of identity formation and to challenge the binary opposition between “black” and “white” that often dominates discussions of American race relations.
In Texas, which by 1890 had become the nation’s leading cotton-producing state, the presence of Mexican sharecroppers and farm workers complicated the black-white dyad that shaped rural labor relations in the South. With the transformation of agrarian society into corporate agribusiness, white racial identity began to fracture along class lines, further complicating categories of identity. Foley explores the “fringe of whiteness,” an ethno-racial borderlands comprising Mexicans, African Americans, and poor whites, to trace shifting ideologies and power relations. By showing how many different ethnic groups are defined in relation to “whiteness,” Foley redefines white racial identity as not simply a pinnacle of status but the complex racial, social, and economic matrix in which power and privilege are shared.
Foley skillfully weaves archival material with oral history interviews, providing a richly detailed view of everyday life in the Texas cotton culture. Addressing the ways in which historical categories affect the lives of ordinary people, The White Scourge tells the broader story of racial identity in America; at the same time it paints an evocative picture of a unique American region. This truly multiracial narrative touches on many issues central to our understanding of American history: labor and the role of unions, gender roles and their relation to ethnicity, the demise of agrarian whiteness, and the Mexican-American experience.
Carter, Dan T. The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000.
Combining biography with regional and national history, this work chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of George Wallace, a populist who abandoned his ideals to become a national symbol of racism and later begged for forgiveness.
Joseph, Peniel E. Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2006.
With the rallying cry of “Black Power!” in 1966, a group of black activists, including Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton, turned their backs on Martin Luther King’s pacifism and, building on Malcolm X’s legacy, pioneered a radical new approach to the fight for equality. Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour is a history of the Black Power movement, that storied group of men and women who would become American icons of the struggle for racial equality.
Peniel E. Joseph traces the history of the men and women of the movement—many of them famous or infamous, others forgotten. Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour begins in Harlem in the 1950s, where, despite the Cold War’s hostile climate, black writers, artists, and activists built a new urban militancy that was the movement’s earliest incarnation. In a series of character-driven chapters, we witness the rise of Black Power groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers, and with them, on both coasts of the country, a fundamental change in the way Americans understood the unfinished business of racial equality and integration.
Drawing on original archival research and more than sixty original oral histories, this narrative history vividly invokes the way in which Black Power redefined black identity and culture and in the process redrew the landscape of American race relations.
Gordon, Linda. The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.
In 1904, New York nuns brought forty Irish orphans to a remote Arizona mining camp, to be placed with Catholic families. The Catholic families were Mexican, as was the majority of the population. Soon the town’s Anglos, furious at this “interracial” transgression, formed a vigilante squad that kidnapped the children and nearly lynched the nuns and the local priest. The Catholic Church sued to get its wards back, but all the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled in favor of the vigilantes.
The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction tells this disturbing and dramatic tale to illuminate the creation of racial boundaries along the Mexican border. Clifton/Morenci, Arizona, was a “wild West” boomtown, where the mines and smelters pulled in thousands of Mexican immigrant workers. Racial walls hardened as the mines became big business and whiteness became a marker of superiority. These already volatile race and class relations produced passions that erupted in the “orphan incident.” To the Anglos of Clifton/Morenci, placing a white child with a Mexican family was tantamount to child abuse, and they saw their kidnapping as a rescue.
Women initiated both sides of this confrontation. Mexican women agreed to take in these orphans, both serving their church and asserting a maternal prerogative; Anglo women believed they had to “save” the orphans, and they organized a vigilante squad to do it. In retelling this nearly forgotten piece of American history, Linda Gordon brilliantly recreates and dissects the tangled intersection of family and racial values, in a gripping story that resonates with today’s conflicts over the “best interests of the child.”