Review: the Continuing Evolution of Reconstruction History by Eric Foner

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In this article, Foner states in his thesis that “since the early 1960s, a profound alteration of the place of blacks within American society, newly uncovered evidence, and changing definitions of history itself, have combined to transform our understanding of race relations, politics, and economic change during Reconstruction.” The article essentially encompasses the meaning of three different views of reconstruction: traditional, revisionist, and post-revisionist. After Foner defines these and explains his thesis, the article becomes somewhat of an advertisement for his own articles on the topic.

Foner defines the traditionalist view as the interpretation that when then civil had finally come to an end, the white population of the south more or less accepted their military defeat and wanted to preserve their supremacy while simultaneously reuniting with the North. The first problem with this view is if the south were to continue on the path of white supremacy and never really grant African Americans any civil rights to enjoy the same freedoms as white people, then reuniting with the north would be pointless. The entire idea of the civil war and reconstruction was to abolish slavery and to also grant the freedmen some, if not most or all, of their civil rights. While discussing the traditional view, Foner also identifies two separate eras of reconstruction. The first of the two eras was Presidential Reconstruction, in which Johnson attempted to continue Lincoln’s policies. The second would be Congressional or Radical Reconstruction. In this era, the southern white community joined together in the fight against the efforts to overthrow the new governments that promoted reconstruction ideals and also to carry out Home Rule. This would essentially become the enforcement of the Black Codes, which restored the plantation lifestyle that had existed before the civil war and in turn kept the freedmen in the position of slavery. The description of the traditionalist...
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