Reconstruction (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
With Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, Eric Foner has written a masterful chronicle of that period in American history which seems to inspire the most passion and to provoke the greatest controversy. Even the date of the beginning of the period is a matter of dispute, with some scholars arguing that the shots at Fort Sumter signaled a restructuring of American social and political life so revolutionary that the very idea of reconstruction is impossible without including the events of the Civil War as part and parcel of the process. Foner takes the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 as his point of departure, with the persuasive reasoning that it “represented a turning point in national policy as well as the character of the war.” Furthermore, he says, it “transformed a war of armies into a conflict of societies, ensuring that Union victory would produce a social revolution within the South.”
From the beginning, then, Foner follows those historians who view Reconstruction as a revolution, but he views as unfinished and incomplete, a movement which would have to wait one hundred years to resume its course toward full equality and freedom for blacks. Along the way, distortions of fact and misreadings of the historical evidence not only hampered its progress but also contributed to, even fostered, a purposeful misunderstanding of the period.
Reconstruction historiography owes much to the pioneering...
(The entire section is 2256 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution. June 5, 1988, p. J8.
The Atlantic. CCLXI, April, 1988, p. 75.
Boston Globe. May 22, 1988, p. 109.
Choice. XXVI, October, 1988, p. 382.
Kirkus Reviews. LVI, February 1, 1988, p. 177.
The Nation. CCXLVI, May 28, 1988, p. 748.
The New Republic. CXCIX, August 1, 1988, p. 41.
The New York Review of Books. XXXV, May 12, 1988, p. 22.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIII, May 22, 1988, p. 11.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIII, March 11, 1988, p. 91.
(The entire section is 57 words.)