Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through The Lives of the First Black Congressmen

Philip Dray, Author . Houghton Mifflin $30 (463p) ISBN 978-0-618-56370-8

With this densely textured history of Reconstruction, Pulitzer Prize–finalist Dray (At the Hands of Persons Unknown ) moves the first black congressmen—including Robert Brown Elliott, P.B.S. Pinchback and Hiram Revels—from the margins of American history and places their careers in an integrated context that includes not only “the challenging world in which they lived [but] the stories of the men and women of both races whose actions affected their role.” Particularly illuminating on local political history, Dray is equally attentive to broader issues (e.g., the “rift between women's rights advocates and civil rights activists”). Events frequently treated as separate African-American issues (e.g., the collapse of the Freedman's Bank, the legal entrenchment of “separate but equal”) are examined in the fuller milieu of contemporary history. The author asserts, “[I]t is difficult to imagine another period in America's past as complex as Reconstruction, or one that has been more controversial in the telling.” Dray's triumph is to have crafted a lucid and balanced narrative, thoroughly researched and well-documented to satisfy the scholarly, while consistently fascinating and fully accessible for the casual reader. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/16/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 463 pages - 978-0-547-24797-7
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-0-547-52691-1
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