By Philip Dray
Reconstruction was once a time of idealism and sweeping swap, because the effective Union created citizenship rights for the freed slaves and granted the vote to black males. 16 black Southerners, elected to the U.S. Congress, arrived in Washington to recommend reforms corresponding to public schooling, equivalent rights, land distribution, and the suppression of the Ku Klux Klan.
yet those males confronted fabulous odds. They have been belittled as corrupt and insufficient through their white political competitors, who used legislative trickery, libel, bribery, and the brutal intimidation in their materials to rob them in their base of help. regardless of their prestige as congressmen, they have been made to suffer the worst humiliations of racial prejudice. and so they were principally forgotten—often ignored or maligned by way of typical histories of the period.
during this superbly written booklet, Philip Dray reclaims their tale. Drawing on archival files, modern information money owed, and congressional files, he exhibits how the efforts of black americans printed their political perceptiveness and readiness to function citizens, electorate, and elected officials.
We meet males just like the struggle hero Robert Smalls of South Carolina (who had stolen a accomplice vessel and introduced it to the Union navy), Robert Brown Elliott (who bested the previous vp of the Confederacy in a stormy debate at the condominium floor), and the celebrated former slave Blanche ok. Bruce (who was once stated to own “the manners of a Chesterfield”). As Dray demonstrates, those males have been eloquent, inventive, and sometimes powerful representatives who, as aid for Reconstruction pale, have been undone by way of the forces of Southern response and northern indifference.
In a grand narrative that strains the promising but tragic arc of Reconstruction, Dray follows those black representatives’ struggles, from the Emancipation Proclamation to the onset of Jim Crow, as they fought for social justice and helped observe the promise of a brand new nation.