characterizations even to racists responsible for legally limiting black com- munity options. Occasionally I found Thomas’s bones to pick with other critics and historians unnecessarily harsh and polemical, as in his continuing beefs with Jennifer Greeson’s ideas about the period or historians’ tendency to amplify racial enmity as the engine of Reconstruction instead of a political economy calculated to disenfranchise blacks. Thomas brings to his subject the courtroom demeanor of a seasoned attorney—not surprising given his expertise in law and literature and the two highly regarded monographs that came before The Literature of Reconstruction. No one could accuse Thomas of not having mastered the secondary literature that undergirds his innovative thinking. Nor can we dismiss his conclusion that, by the early twentieth century, the entanglements of Reconstruction on legal and political fronts had placed people of color on even shakier socioeconomic ground than in the immediate postwar years. Taking great care to interpret the contexts of postemancipation life as writers, judges, and politicians experienced its dense textures, Thomas models how not to allow current historiographic trends to govern our reading of the past. Jane E. Schultz jane e. schultz is a professor of English with affiliations in history and
The Journal of the Civil War Era – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Aug 20, 2018
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