cover image Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow

Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Penguin, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-55953-5

Gates (The Annotated African American Folktales), the director of Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research, provides an expansive exploration of Reconstruction, Redemption (white southerners’ attempts to reinstate a white supremacist system), and Jim Crow, demonstrating how they informed and engendered one another and sowed the seeds of the modern resurgence of white-supremacist ideas. Gates begins in the 1860s, with the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments providing African Americans basic civil rights, and continues through the backlash of Jim Crow legislation and related cultural trends (including eugenics, stereotypical representations of African-Americans like Uncle Remus, and D.W. Griffith’s KKK-redeeming film The Birth of a Nation). Gates illustrates how this widespread racism and resentment gave rise to the “New Negro,” a rallying of “black intellectuals, creative artists, and political activists” that became the Harlem Renaissance (and whose rhetoric prefigured respectability politics). Gates outlines the ideals and accomplishments of black thinkers including W.E.B. Du Bois, George Washington Williams, Frederick Douglass, and Booker T. Washington, and he insightfully demonstrates how history repeats itself by comparing the emergence of Jim Crow with the rise in white supremacism surrounding Barack Obama’s presidency. This excellent text, augmented by a disturbing collection of late-19th- and early-20th-century racist images, is indispensable for understanding American history. (Apr.)