Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post–Civil War America

Garrett Epps, Author
Garrett Epps, Author . Holt/Macrae $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7130-6
Reviewed on: 07/17/2006
Release date: 08/01/2006
Paperback - 333 pages - 978-0-8050-8663-8
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4668-5125-2
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In December 1865, the 39th Congress had urgent business, says Epps in this passionate account of Reconstruction politics. If the former Confederate states were readmitted to the Union, ex-slaves would swell those states' congressional power, but without congressional protection, the freedmen would never be allowed to vote, and the Southern white elite would have disproportionate influence in the federal government. Epps follows every twist of Congress's response to this problem, and his energetic prose transforms potentially tedious congressional debates into riveting reading. He illuminates the fine points, such as the distinction in the 19th century between civil rights—relating to property and employment, which many thought blacks should have—and political rights, which some thought only educated men of wealth should have. Congressmen were not the only people energized by the conundrums of electoral representation. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton petitioned for women's suffrage on the same grounds as blacks. While Congress hammered out the 14th and 15th Amendments, white Southerners were putting in place the Jim Crow codes that would subvert those amendments until the 1960s. As constitutional scholar and novelist Epps (The Shad Treatment ) notes in a rousing afterword, there are many corners in which they are not fully realized today. 7 pages of b&w illus. (Sept. 1)

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