Albion Winegar Tourgée Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Albion W. Tourgée (toor-ZHAY), a Union soldier in the Civil War, wrote to justify the Radical Republican idea of Reconstruction. Other minor American writers used Reconstruction themes, but unlike Tourgée they were native southerners, they did not experience Reconstruction directly, and they were not involved in its politics. Tourgée was thus unique.{$S[A]Churton, Henry;Tourgée, Albion Winegar}

Tourgée grew up in Ohio and graduated from Rochester College in 1862. His war career lasted less than two years, and in 1865 he moved to North Carolina. As a carpetbag lawyer he wanted to help establish racial equality and generally to improve and enlighten the South. He later realized how radical and naïve these ideas were. Disillusioned, he fictionalized his experiences under the title A Fool’s Errand.

The book is the best of his more than twenty novels. It is largely autobiographical—the central figure of the fool is an idealistic Michigan lawyer who moves to the South and finds himself persona non grata as he tries to help African Americans obtain their rights. A certain amount of suspense and violent action helps rescue the book from Tourgée’s heavy burden of moralizing. Particularly memorable are the vivid accounts of Ku Klux Klan threats and atrocities. Comfort Servosse, the fool, finally realizes that the South cannot change instantly. He admires the courage and courtesy of southern aristocrats but hates their...

(The entire section is 419 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Dibble, Roy F. Albion W. Tourgée. 1921. Reprint. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1968.

Gross, Theodore L. Albion W. Tourgée. New York: Twayne, 1963.

Olsen, Otto H. Carpetbagger’s Crusade: The Life of Albion Winegar Tourgée. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965.

Stiller, Richard. The White Minority: Pioneers for Racial Equality. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977.