"Revolutions and Reconstructions brilliantly reimagines the black political landscape before 1900. Each chapter is based on cutting edge work and the whole volume convincingly shows how African American political actors, whether at the local or national level, played pivotal roles on a number of civic and institutional fronts. It's an essential volume."—Richard Newman, Rochester Institute of TechnologyRevolutions and Reconstructions gathers historians of the early republic, the Civil War era, and African American and political history to consider not whether black people participated in the politics of the nineteenth century but how, when, and with what lasting effects. Collectively, its authors insist that historians go beyond questioning how revolutionary the American Revolution was, or whether Reconstruction failed, and focus, instead, on how political change initiated by African Americans and their allies constituted the rule in nineteenth-century American politics, not occasional and cataclysmic exceptions.
"This timely volume highlights the agency of African Americans by demonstrating that their efforts were ongoing, multifaceted, and driving American politics. The image of a nation going through a postwar reconstruction that was similar across regions has long been in need of correction, and this book is a significant contribution to that effort."—Beverly Tomek, University of Houston-Victoria
The essays in this groundbreaking collection cover the full range of political activity by black northerners after the Revolution, from cultural politics to widespread voting, within a political system shaped by the rising power of slaveholders. Conceptualizing a new black politics, contributors observe, requires reorienting American politics away from black/white and North/South polarities and toward a new focus on migration and local or state structures. Other essays focus on the middle decades of the nineteenth century and demonstrate that free black politics, not merely the politics of slavery, was a disruptive and consequential force in American political development.
From the perspective of the contributors to this volume, formal black politics did not begin in 1865, or with agitation by abolitionists like Frederick Douglass in the 1840s, but rather in the Revolutionary era's antislavery and citizenship activism. As these essays show, revolution, emancipation, and Reconstruction are not separate eras in U.S. history, but rather linked and ongoing processes that began in the 1770s and continued through the nineteenth century.
Contributors: Christopher James Bonner, Kellie Carter Jackson, Andrew Diemer, Laura F. Edwards, Van Gosse, Sarah L. H. Gronningsater, M. Scott Heerman, Dale Kretz, Padraig Riley, Samantha Seeley, James M. Shinn Jr., David Waldstreicher.
Van Gosse is Professor of History at Franklin & Marshall College.
David Waldstreicher is Distinguished Professor of History at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.