cover image Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877

Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877

Eric Foner. HarperCollins Publishers, $29.95 (690pp) ISBN 978-0-06-015851-4

With the Confederacy's defeat, Reconstruction seemed like the dawn of a new era to blacks and progressive whites, but it was not to be. The Panic of 1873 (called ""the Great Depression'' until the 1930s) shattered hopes for a modernized and prosperous Southern economy. By 1870 the Ku Klux Klan had entrenched itself in nearly every Southern state, targeting black schools and churches. Many Northern philanthropists vigorously opposed integration; politicos rose to power by playing upon voters' prejudices; patronage, racism and corruption were rampant. Despite its failures, Reconstruction initiated a massive experiment in interracial democracy, and as Foner demonstrates, blacks, far from being passive victims, helped set the political and economic agenda. This invaluable, definitive history re-creates the post-Civil War period as a pivotal drama in which ordinary people get equal billing with politicians and wheelers and dealers. Foner, who teaches at Columbia, is author of Nothing but Freedom and editor of America's Black Past. (April)