Southern Reconstruction

Philip Leigh. Westholme, $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59416-276-3
Reconstruction remains an emotionally fraught topic, but Leigh (Lee’s Lost Dispatch) explains here how Reconstruction efforts devastated the war-ravaged South and does so without downplaying American racism. Leigh meticulously details the ways that corruption from President Johnson’s impeachment debacle and Grant’s “scandal-ridden tenure” trickled down to the local level, with rampant plundering of economically devastated former Confederate states lengthening the South’s fiscal and emotional recovery. Leigh’s fondness for his native South is clear, but he also resolutely describes its racism, classism, and other failings both before and after the war. Though race is not Leigh’s primary focus, he never ignores it. He also effectively argues that wealthy whites subverted a Southern populist movement that sought to bring poor whites and newly freed slaves together in a multiracial economic coalition. There were a few black men who attained political positions as legislators and lieutenant governors—P.B.S. Pinchback’s brief turn as Louisiana governor goes curiously unmentioned—but high rates of illiteracy and unemployment and patronizing attitudes toward the newly freed slaves in both the North and South made it nearly impossible for African-Americans to achieve true equality, despite the 14th Amendment. Leigh’s thoughtful examination of the Reconstruction era delves into its very real costs, both monetary and in terms of morale, to the South as a whole, shedding light on why generations of Southerners continue to spiritually fight a long-settled war. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/24/2017
Release date: 05/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-59416-318-0
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