Forever free The story of emancipation and Reconstruction

Eric Foner, 1943-

Book - 2005

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New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House 2005.
1st ed
Item Description
"Forever Free project : Peter O. Almond & Stephen B. Brier, senior producers ; Christine Doudna, editor."
Physical Description
268 p. : ill
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Eric Foner, 1943- (-)
Corporate Author
Forever Free, Inc (-)
Other Authors
Joshua Brown, 1949- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Foner, a history professor at Columbia University, breaks with the stereotype of uncouth freedmen ill prepared to assume roles in a Reconstruction government beyond their intellectual capacities, a stereotype projected by popular culture including the film Birth of a Nation. Instead, he presents the freedmen as people who embraced the ideals and possibilities of freedom and citizenship, using their pre-emancipation institutional concepts of family and church to work within local governments while exercising their right to vote. The freedmen sought public education, fair wages, and access to land in pursuit of their ideal of citizenship. But the counterforces of the landed gentry in the South, dependent on black labor, impeded the incorporation of blacks into full citizenship. The success of this resistance necessitated the modern civil rights era, which continued efforts to fulfill the promises of Reconstruction. Foner intersperses throughout the book visual essays that include commentary, photographs, and illustrations that reflects how blacks viewed themselves. These visual essays add a dimension that broadens the context for understanding both past and present struggles by blacks for full American citizenship. ((Reviewed November 1, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

In this lavishly illustrated and timely popular survey, Foner (Columbia Univ.), the foremost authority in the US on Reconstruction, underscores the "missed opportunities" of the emancipation and Reconstruction eras and their impact on the quest for racial justice and interracial democracy today. The author synthesizes, generalizes, and analyzes with a deft touch. Focusing keenly on the African American experience, he narrates life under slavery, the emancipation process during the Civil War, and Reconstruction's rise and fall. Slaves resisted bondage in countless ways, supported by their free black and white abolitionist allies. During the war, slaves ran away, betrayed their masters, and eagerly joined the US Colored Troops. Presidential Reconstruction served the freed people their first taste of freedom; during Radical Reconstruction, they devoured it, attending school, voting, and holding office. The abandonment of Reconstruction by northern politicians, however, ushered in Bourbon control in the South, and white supremacy, racial violence, and decades of Jim Crow throughout the nation. Though African Americans reclaimed their rights during the "Second Reconstruction," Foner concludes that elements of slavery's dark legacy of racial inequality remain. The revolution sparked by the Civil War and Reconstruction remains unfinished. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General and undergraduate collections. Copyright 2006 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Having won awards for Reconstruction in 1988, Columbia history professor Foner uses new research (and vintage photos) to tell the story even better this time 'round. With a three-city tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Bancroft Prize winner Foner (history, Columbia Univ.; Reconstruction ), with the support of archival illustrations ("visual essays") edited by Brown (executive director, American Social History Project, CUNY), demonstrates that the eras of Emancipation and Reconstruction were of pivotal historical importance and still relevant to notions of freedom and citizenship in America today. Searching beyond the usual sources and passive role assigned African Americans, this book shows how blacks fought for their freedom, becoming central actors in the Civil War as well as during Reconstruction. Drawing from W.E.B. Du Bois's Black Reconstruction, as well as Foner's own previous work on this topic, Foner and Brown dramatize white supremacist oppression of black Americans and the vilification of their struggle for a multiracial democracy. Tied to a pending film/television documentary project of the same title, this book succeeds in making historical scholarship accessible to a mass audience. It confronts racist-based attitudes perpetuated by such cultural projects as the movie Birth of a Nation , the novel Gone with the Wind , and pre-World War II academic historiography, all of which have distorted our understanding of Emancipation, Reconstruction, freedom, and equality. Strongly recommended for public and undergraduate libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/05.]--Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College [Page 68]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Probably no period in American history is as controversial, as distorted by myth and as "essentially unknown" as the era of emancipation and Reconstruction, award-winning historian Foner (The Story of American Freedom ; Reconstruction ; etc.) argues in this dense, rectifying but highly readable account. His analysis of "that turbulent era, its successes and failures, and its long-term consequences up until this very day" addresses the debates among historians, corrects the misrepresentations and separates myth from fact with persuasive data. Foner opens his work with an overview of slavery and the Civil War and concludes with a consideration of the Civil Rights movement and the continuing impact of Reconstruction upon the current political scene, a framework that adds to the clarity of his history of that era, its aftermath and its legacy. Joshua Brown's six interspersed "visual essays," with his fresh commentary on images from slavery through Reconstruction to Jim Crow, buttress Foner's text and contribute to its accessibility. In his mission to illuminate Reconstruction's critical repercussions for contemporary American culture, Foner balances his passion for racial equality and social justice with disciplined scholarship. His book is a valuable, fluid introduction to a complex period. 139 illus. (Nov.) [Page 57]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Adult/High School -This is a more accessible, though equally distinguished, treatment of the material covered in Foner's Reconstruction (HarperCollins, 1989). It draws on his earlier work and also on more recent scholarship to present a particularly complex time in American history and to correct common misconceptions about the period (1865-1877). Especially significant is the clear explanation of how the historical record refutes negative stereotypes of ex-slaves widely disseminated after the Civil War. Racist images of these newly enfranchised citizens as inferior, passive individuals easily manipulated by white anti-Southerners were accepted by many historians well into the 20th century, and the distortions were supported in the wider culture by popular entertainment, novels, and films, e.g., Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind . This book shows that African Americans took active roles in fighting for freedom and leading postwar attempts to establish political and social equality. Six absorbing "Visual Essays," edited with commentary by Brown, use archival illustrations and photos to examine how graphic arts influenced public attitudes toward African Americans during and after Reconstruction. An epilogue, "The Unfinished Revolution," links the main themes to issues still challenging the U.S. at the beginning of the 21st century, raising questions virtually assured to prompt classroom discussion.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA [Page 257]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Analyzes the post-Civil War era of emancipation and Reconstruction with an emphasis on discovering the larger political and cultural meaning for contemporary America of the lives of the newly freed slaves and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Analyzes the post-Civil War era of Emancipation and Reconstruction with an emphasis on discovering the larger political and cultural meaning for contemportary America of the lives of the newly freed slaves and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. 35,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

From one of our most distinguished historians, a new examination of the vitally important years of Emancipation and Reconstruction during and immediately following the Civil War–a necessary reconsideration that emphasizes the era’s political and cultural meaning for today’s America.In Forever Free, Eric Foner overturns numerous assumptions growing out of the traditional understanding of the period, which is based almost exclusively on white sources and shaped by (often unconscious) racism. He presents the period as a time of determination, especially on the part of recently emancipated black Americans, to put into effect the principles of equal rights and citizenship for all.Drawing on a wide range of long-neglected documents, he places a new emphasis on the centrality of the black experience to an understanding of the era. We see African Americans as active agents in overthrowing slavery, in helping win the Civil War, and–even more actively–in shaping Reconstruction and creating a legacy long obscured and misunderstood. Foner makes clear how, by war’s end, freed slaves in the South built on networks of church and family in order to exercise their right of suffrage as well as gain access to education, land, and employment.He shows us that the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and renewed acts of racial violence were retaliation for the progress made by blacks soon after the war. He refutes lingering misconceptions about Reconstruction, including the attribution of its ills to corrupt African American politicians and “carpetbaggers,” and connects it to the movements for civil rights and racial justice.Joshua Brown’s illustrated commentary on the era’s graphic art and photographs complements the narrative. He offers a unique portrait of how Americans envisioned their world and time.Forever Free is an essential contribution to our understanding of the events that fundamentally reshaped American life after the Civil War–a persuasive reading of history that transforms our sense of the era from a time of failure and despair to a threshold of hope and achievement.