Milton Meltzer Kirkus Reviews - Essay

Kirkus Reviews

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The one solid, unassailable accomplishment of [Freedom Comes to Mississippi: The Story of Reconstruction] is to set forth the achievements of the black-supported Republican state government and black office holders on the state and local levels between 1870 and 1873; as a history of Reconstruction, however, it is emotional and partisan, fuller of blame than of sober, discriminating assessment. Omitted from the impressionistic tableau are the very limitations to the Emancipation Proclamation that the Thirteenth Amendment rectified and the absolute necessity for Congress to give the blacks votes to gain ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment; much that was specifically motivated becomes a matter of amorphous pressures. Neither do even the most sympathetic studies of the period substantiate the claims made for black militance … or slave transformation…. That socially and economically life changed very little for the majority is thereby obscured. Obscured also, in a quote, is the revolutionary nature of the expansion of government services beyond their prewar level. On the one hand more is made of Reconstruction than the facts justify; on the other hand, less. And the concentration on oppression, injustice and terror, inarguable per se, overshadows what explanations are offered for both the inception and termination of Reconstruction.

A review of "Freedom Comes to Mississippi: The Story of Reconstruction." in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1970 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XXXVIII, No. 19, October 1, 1970, p. 1114.