Top Ten Books on the History of Reconstruction
W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880.New York: Free Press, 2000.
The pioneering work in the study of the role of Black Americans during Reconstruction by the most influential Black intellectual of his time. This book was the first full-length study of the role black Americans played in the crucial period after the Civil War when the slaves had been freed and the attempt was made to reconstruct American society. Hailed at the time, Black Reconstruction in America 1860–1880 has justly been called a classic. Du Bois history undermined the previous historical works on Reconconstruction written by historians who were from the Dunning the school which openly supported white southerners.
Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York: Harper, 1988.
Eric Foner's "masterful treatment of one of the most complex periods of American history" (New Republic) redefined 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 ways in which the emancipated slaves' quest for economic autonomy and equal citizenship shaped the political agenda of Reconstruction; the remodeling of Southern society and the place of planters, merchants, and small farmers within it; the evolution of racial attitudes and patterns of race relations; and the emergence of a national state possessing vastly expanded authority and committed, for a time, to the principle of equal rights for all Americans.
Holt, Thomas. Black over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1979. In this prize-winning book Thomas Holt is concerned not only with the identities of the black politicians who gained power in South Carolina during Reconstruction, but also with the question of how they functioned within the political system. Thus, as one reviewer has commented, "he penetrates the superficial preoccupations over whether black politicians were venal or gullible to see whether they wielded power and influence and, if they did, how and to what ends and against what obstacles."
Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet (2003)
This is the epic story of how African-Americans, in the six decades following slavery, transformed themselves into a political people--an embryonic black nation. As Steven Hahn demonstrates, rural African-Americans were central political actors in the great events of disunion, emancipation, and nation-building. At the same time, Hahn asks us to think in more expansive ways about the nature and boundaries of politics and political practice.
Emphasizing the importance of kinship, labor, and networks of communication, A Nation under Our Feet explores the political relations and sensibilities that developed under slavery and shows how they set the stage for grassroots mobilization. Hahn introduces us to local leaders, and shows how political communities were built, defended, and rebuilt. He also identifies the quest for self-governance as an essential goal of black politics across the rural South, from contests for local power during Reconstruction, to emigrationism, biracial electoral alliances, social separatism, and, eventually, migration.
Heather C. Richardson, [https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0674013662/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0674013662&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=42b8f7c9536feb8a4c83bf4a16673c14 The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North] (Harvard University Press, 2004) Historians overwhelmingly have blamed the demise of Reconstruction on Southerners' persistent racism. Heather Cox Richardson argues instead that class, along with race, was critical to Reconstruction's end. Northern support for freed blacks and Reconstruction weakened in the wake of growing critiques of the economy and calls for a redistribution of wealth.
Using newspapers, public speeches, popular tracts, Congressional reports, and private correspondence, Richardson traces the changing Northern attitudes toward African-Americans from the Republicans' idealized image of black workers in 1861 through the 1901 publication of Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery. She examines such issues as black suffrage, disenfranchisement, taxation, westward migration, lynching, and civil rights to detect the trajectory of Northern disenchantment with Reconstruction. She reveals a growing backlash from Northerners against those who believed that inequalities should be addressed through working-class action, and the emergence of an American middle class that championed individual productivity and saw African-Americans as a threat to their prosperity.
Heather C. Richardson, West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War (Yale University Press, 2008)
The story of Reconstruction is not simply about the rebuilding of the South after the Civil War. Instead, the late nineteenth century defined modern America, as Southerners, Northerners, and Westerners gradually hammered out a national identity that united three regions into a country that could become a world power. Ultimately, the story of Reconstruction is about how a middle class formed in America and how its members defined what the nation would stand for, both at home and abroad, for the next century and beyond.
A sweeping history of the United States from the era of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, this engaging book stretches the boundaries of our understanding of Reconstruction. Historian Heather Cox Richardson ties the North and West into the post–Civil War story that usually focuses narrowly on the South, encompassing the significant people and events of this profoundly important era.
Gregory P. Downs, After Appomattox
“Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen” (Mariner, 2010)
Michael W. Fitzgerald, “Splendid Failure: Postwar Reconstruction in the American South” (Ivan R. Dee, 2007)
“The Scalawags: Southern Dissenters in the Civil War and Reconstruction” (Louisiana State University, 2003)