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Winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. This extraordinary account of lynching in America, by acclaimed civil rights historian Philip Dray, shines a clear, bright light on American history's darkest stain--illuminating its causes, perpetrators, apologists, and victims. Philip Dray also tells the story of the men and women who led the long and difficult fight to expose and eradicate lynching, including Ida B. Wells, James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and W. E. B. Du Bois.
In this grand and compelling new history of Reconstruction, Philip Dray shines a light on a little known group of men: the nation's first black members of Congress. Neglected by most historians, these individuals--some of whom were former slaves--played a critical role in pushing for much-needed reforms in the wake of a traumatic civil war, including equal rights, public education, and protection from Klan violence. Most important, their example laid the foundation for future black political leaders. Drawing on archival documents, newspaper coverage, and congressional records, he shows that P.B.S. Pinchback (who started out as a riverboat gambler), Robert Smalls (who hijacked a Confederate steamer and delivered it to Union troops), and Robert Brown Elliot (who bested the former vice president of the Confederacy in a stormy debate on the House floor) were eloquent, creative, and often quite effective--they were simply overwhelmed by the forces of Southern reaction and Northern indifference. Covering the fraught period between the Emancipation Proclamation and Jim Crow, Dray reclaims the reputations of men who, though flawed, led a valiant struggle for social justice.
Reconstruction was a time of idealism and sweeping change, as the victorious Union created citizenship rights for the freed slaves and granted the vote to black men. Sixteen black Southerners, elected to the U.S. Congress, arrived in Washington to advocate reforms such as public education, equal rights, land distribution, and the suppression of the Ku Klux Klan.
"Dray captures the genius and ingenuity of Franklin's scientific thinking and then does something even more fascinating: He shows how science shaped his diplomacy, politics, and Enlightenment philosophy." -Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Today we think of Benjamin Franklin as a founder of American independence who also dabbled in science.
Award-winning historian Dray shows the vital accomplishments of organized labor and illuminates its central role in social, political, economic, and cultural evolution.