How has Bowers’ The Tragic Era affected popular culture?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is hard to prove that one particular academic work that is more than 80 years old has affected popular culture.  However, it is quite clear that this book and others like if from the Dunning School did affect popular culture in times past.

Bowers' book and others like it held that Reconstruction was a disaster.  It argued that the freed slaves were incompetent to be part of government.  It argued that the whites who ran Reconstruction in the South were corrupt.  In this view, the majority of white Southerners were the victims of a corrupt and incompetent government imposed on them by Northerners.

This view became popular in the popular culture even before Bowers wrote.  It was put forward, for example, by D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation in 1915.  This view of Reconstruction dominated American historiography and popular attitudes until the time of the Civil Rights era.

Bowers' book, then, helped to create a popular view of Reconstruction that was anti-black and anti-Reconstruction.

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