A brilliant evocation of the post-Civil War era by the acclaimed author of Patriots and Union 1812. After Lincoln tells the story of the Reconstruction, which set back black Americans and isolated the South for a century.
With Lincoln’s assassination, his “team of rivals,” in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s phrase, was left adrift. President Andrew Johnson, a former slave owner from Tennessee, was challenged by Northern Congressmen, Radical Republicans led by Thaddeus Stephens and Charles Sumner, who wanted to punish the defeated South. When Johnson’s policies placated the rebels at the expense of the black freed men, radicals in the House impeached him for trying to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Johnson was saved from removal by one vote in the Senate trial, presided over by Salmon Chase. Even William Seward, Lincoln’s closest ally, seemed to waver.
By the 1868 election, united Republicans nominated Ulysses Grant, Lincoln’s winning Union general. The night of his victory, Grant lamented to his wife, “I’m afraid I’m elected.” His attempts to reconcile Southerners with the Union and to quash the rising Ku Klux Klan were undercut by post-war greed and corruption.
Reconstruction died unofficially in 1887 when Republican Rutherford Hayes joined with the Democrats in a deal that removed the last federal troops from South Carolina and Louisiana. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill with protections first proposed in 1872 by the Radical Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.
The Oxford Book of the American South resonates with the words of black people and white, women and men, the powerless as well as the powerful. The collection presents the most telling fiction and nonfiction produced in the South from the late eighteenth century to the present. Renowned authors such as James Agee, Richard Wright, Maya Angelou, Lee Smith, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor appear in these pages, but so do people whose writing did not immediately reach a large audience. For example, Harriet A. Jacobs’ book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, which is now recognized as one of the most illuminating narratives of a former slave, was neglected for generations. And Sarah Morgan’s powerful Civil War Diary has only recently come to widespread attention. The Oxford Book of the American South presents compelling autobiographies, diaries, memoirs, and journalism as well as stories and selections from novels, and runs the spectrum from the conservative to the radical, the traditional to the innovative. Editors Edward L. Ayers and Bradley C. Mittendorf have arranged these diverse readings so that they fit together into a rich mosaic of Southern life and history. The sections of the book The Old South, The Civil War and Its Consequences, Hard Times, and The Turning unfold a vivid record of life below the Mason Dixon line. We see the antebellum period both from the perspective of those who experienced it first-hand, such as Thomas Jefferson and former slaves Olaudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass, and then from the perspective of authors looking back on that era, including William Styron and Sherley Anne Williams. Likewise, we see the Civil War through the eyes of witnesses such as Sam Watkins, through the eyes of later writers trying to make sense of the conflict, such as Robert Penn Warren, and through the eyes of those using the war’s intense passions to fuel their fiction, such as Margaret Mitchell and Barry Hannah. The classic authors of the Southern Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s appear here in the context of the hard times in which they wrote. The years since World War II are chronicled in the powerful words of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” George Garrett’s “Good bye, Good bye, Be Always Kind and True,” and Peter Taylor’s “The Decline and Fall of the Episcopal Church, in the Year of Our Lord 1952.” The editors have selected these readings, their Preface tells us, to convey “the passions that have surfaced time and again in more than two hundred years of Southern writing.” Indeed, the struggles, defeats, and triumphs chronicled in The Oxford Book of the American South speak not just to the South, but to all of the American experience. They document and evoke some of the most dramatic episodes in the nation’s life
For the first time in four decades, there exists an authoritative and up-to-date survey of the literature of the United States, from prehistoric cave narratives to the radical movements of the sixties and the experimentation of the eighties.
This comprehensive volume — one of the century’s most important books in American studies — extensively treats Hawthorne, Melville, Dickinson, Hemingway, and other long-cherished writers, while also giving considerable attention to recently discovered writers such as Kate Chopin and to literary movements and forms of writing not studied amply in the past. Informed by the most current critical and theoretical ideas, it sets forth a generation’s interpretation of the rise of American civilization and culture.
The Columbia Literary History of the United States contains essays by today’s foremost scholars and critics, overseen by a board of distinguished editors headed by Emory Elliott of Princeton University. These contributors reexamine in contemporary terms traditional subjects such as the importance of Puritanism, Romanticism, and frontier humor in American life and writing, but they also fully explore themes and materials that have only begun to receive deserved attention in the last two decades. Among these are the role of women as writers, readers, and literary subjects and the impact of writers from minority groups, both inside and outside the literary establishment.
America’s leading role in today’s information revolution may seem simply to reflect its position as the world’s dominant economy and most powerful state. But by the early nineteenth century, when the United States was neither a world power nor a primary center of scientific discovery, it was already a leader in communications-in postal service and newspaper publishing, then in development of the telegraph and telephone networks, later in the whole repertoire of mass communications.In this wide-ranging social history of American media, from the first printing press to the early days of radio, Paul Starr shows that the creation of modern communications was as much the result of political choices as of technological invention. With his original historical analysis, Starr examines how the decisions that led to a state-run post office and private monopolies on the telegraph and telephone systems affected a developing society. He illuminates contemporary controversies over freedom of information by exploring such crucial formative issues as freedom of the press, intellectual property, privacy, public access to information, and the shaping of specific technologies and institutions. America’s critical choices in these areas, Starr argues, affect the long-run path of development in a society and have had wide social, economic, and even military ramifications. The Creation of the Media not only tells the history of the media in a new way; it puts America and its global influence into a new perspective.
Through the perspectives of selected best-selling novels from the end of World War II to the end of the 20th century–including The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Godfather, Jaws, Beloved, The Silence of the Lambs, and Jurassic Park–this book examines the crucial issues the U.S. was experiencing during those decades. These novels represent the voices of popular conversations, as Americans considered issues of family, class, racism and sexism, feminism, economic ambition, sexual violence, war, law, religion and science.
Through the windows of fiction, the book surveys the Cold War and anti-communism, the prefeminist era of the 1950s and the sexual revolution of the 1970s, forms of corporate power in the 1960s and 1980s, the traumatic legacies of slavery and Vietnam, the American fascination with lawyers, cops and criminals, alternate styles of romance in the era of late capitalism, our abiding distrust of science, and our steadfast wonder about the Great Mysteries.