|Reconstruction (PBS Documentary)
On a misty April evening in 1865, a jubilant crowd packed the White House lawn to hear President Abraham Lincoln's first speech since the end of the Civil War. They expected a stirring celebration of the Union victory -- but instead got harsh reality. Even with the South defeated, Lincoln warned, the future would be "fraught with great difficulty." He called the task ahead reconstruction -- a word that returned to American headlines nearly a century and a half later, in the aftermath of the war in Iraq.
Even as Lincoln spoke, opposing forces were gathering. Some Americans saw Reconstruction as a chance to build a new nation out of the ashes of war and slavery. Others vowed to wage a new war to protect their way of life, and a racial order they believed ordained by God. Lincoln saw the problem with agonizing clarity. Bitter enemies, North and South, had to be reconciled. And four million former slaves had to be brought into the life of a nation that had ignored them for centuries. In some ways, it was harder than winning the war.
Three days after delivering his warning, Lincoln was shot dead. Reconstruction would have to go forward without him.
Spanning the momentous years from 1863 to 1877, Reconstruction tracks the extraordinary stories of ordinary Americans -- Southern and Northern, white and black -- as they struggle to shape new lives for themselves in a world turned upside down.
Reconstruction's remarkable cast of characters includes Tunis Campbell, a daring former minister who staked out an independent colony for blacks in Georgia's Sea Islands -- and declared it off-limits to whites. Frances Butler, the daughter of a Georgia rice baron, struggled to rebuild her family's plantations -- and to negotiate labor contracts with the very men and women her family used to own. Marshall Twitchell, a battle-scarred Civil War veteran from Vermont, rose to power in the wild northwest corner of Louisiana with deadly consequences. John Roy Lynch, a former slave from Mississippi, was elected to Congress, where he challenged whites' deepest beliefs about race and class.
The narratives of these and other unknown players are interwoven with the stories of presidents and generals -- Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman -- and others whose lives were caught up in the epochal struggles of the era. "An old social order had been destroyed," says Eric Foner, historian at Columbia University and author of Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution. "Everything was up for grabs."
After four bloody years of civil war, North and South would continue to fight over the meaning of freedom, the meaning of citizenship, and the survival of the nation itself. Reconstruction brings to life this turbulent and complex period through original footage shot on location, primarily in the South (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina), and with the assistance of regional groups and associations -- the First Louisiana Cavalry Regiment, Company E; the Liberty Greys, Civil War re-enactors based in New England; South Carolina's Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition; and the Thirty-Second Georgia Artillery, among others.
Reconstruction shows how, in just a few years, a series of stunning events -- the Emancipation Proclamation, the Fourteenth Amendment granting ex-slaves citizenship in 1868, the enfranchisement of blacks the following year -- reversed centuries-old patterns of race relations in America. People who for generations had been the property of others were now free to run their own lives.
The whole Southern world was turned upside down. And yet, despite these challenges and terrible racial violence in this period, so much was accomplished. Reconstruction brought public schools to the South for the first time. Black Southerners were elected to local and national offices. And the nation committed itself to equality under the law for all Americans, regardless of race, by passing the Fourteenth Amendment. Reconstruction laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, and the foundation for the American society we live in today.
For Further Reading
This page presents a general bibliography for Reconstruction. For books and Web sites related to specific topics including sharecroppers, education, black suffrage and political participation, carpetbaggers, and more, please refer to the Further Reading pages accessible from the topical sections of this site.
Library of Congress: African American Odyssey
The Library of Congress's American Memory Web site includes this special exhibit tracing African American history and the quest for full citizenship. It includes a section on Reconstruction that provides links to original documents.
Documenting the American South
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Documenting the American South archive has collected and published online over 1200 sources on Southern history, literature and culture, including dozens of first-person accounts of the Civil War and Reconstruction. A subject index provides useful access to the collection.
America's Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War
The Digital History Web site, a collaboration between the University of Houston, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and other institutions, presents an online version of Eric Foner and Olivia Mahoney's exhibit on Reconstruction.
Africans in America
Companion site to a PBS documentary on America's journey through slavery, this site provides ample primary sources, historian interviews and other resources for learning about slavery from first settlement through the Civil War.
American Experience:John Brown's Holy War
Learn about the man whose violent crusade against slavery would spark the Civil War. The site features virtual tours of locations in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia that are important to Brown's story, and an exploration of the song, "John Brown's Body."
American Experience:The Time of the Lincolns
Explore the long-vanished world of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln, including arguments for and against slavery, the economic growth of America in the mid-19th century, women's suffrage, the bloody Civil War, and the partisan politics that divided the nation in two. The site features extensive primary sources, a virtual tour of a slave cabin, and the experiences of a Confederate and a Union soldier as they go to war.
American Experience:Ulysses S. Grant
On this American Experience site, pay a visit to Grant's frontier childhood, fight Confederate forces at Shiloh, read one of the most popular books of the 19th century -- Grant's Personal Memoirs -- and learn about the Union general who became a U.S. president during the eras of Civil War and Reconstruction.
American Experience: Jubilee Singers
This Web site tells the story of a group of young ex-slaves in Reconstruction-era Nashville, Tennessee, who set out on a mission to save their financially troubled school by giving concerts. The site features audio and video clips of the current-day Fisk University Jubilee Singers performing spirituals.
Anderson, Eric and Moss, Alfred. The Facts of Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of John Hope Franklin. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991.
Angell, Stephen Ward. Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and African-American Religion in the South. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992.
Ayer, Edward. The Promise of the New South: Life after Reconstruction. Oxford University Press, 1992.
Ayers, Edward L. and Willis, John C., eds. The Edge of the South. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991.
Ballard, Allen B. One More Day's Journey. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1984.
----. Where I'm Bound. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
Bedwell, Randall, ed. May I Quote You, General Grant: Observations and Utterances from The North's Great Generals. Nashville: Cumberland Press, 1998.
Benfey, Christopher. Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable. New York: Knopf, 1997.
Berlin, Ira, Fields, Barbara, Miller, Steven, et al. Slaves No More. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Berlin, Ira, and Rowland, Leslie S. Freedom: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982, 1993.
Blight, David. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.
Botume, Elizabeth Hyde. First Days Amongst the Contrabands. Boston: Lee and Shepard Publishers, 1893.
Bradley, Mark L. This Astounding Close: The Road to Bennett Place. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Brandwin, Pamela. Reconstructing Reconstruction: The Supreme Court and the Production of Historical Truth. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.
Catton, Bruce. Grant Moves South, 1861-1863. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 1960.
----. Grant Takes Command, 1863-1865. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1960.
----. U.S. Grant and the American Military Tradition. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1954.
Clinton, Catherine. Civil War Stories. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998.
Cox, LaWanda. Freedom, Racism, and Reconstruction: Collected Writings of LaWanda Cox. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997.
Currie-McDaniel, Ruth. Carpetbagger of Conscience: A Biography of John Emory Bryant. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1987.
Dailey, Jane, Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth, and Simon, Bryant, eds. Jumpin' Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil War to Civil Rights. Trenton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000.
Davies, Ronald L. Good and Faithful: From Slavery to Sharecropping in the Natchez District, 1860-90. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982.
Davis, Jack E. Race Against Time: Culture and Separation in Natchez Since 1930. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.
Dennett, John Richard. The South As It Is: 1865-1866. New York: The Viking Press, 1965.
Diffley, Kathleen. Where My Heart Is Turning Ever: Civil War Stories and Constitutional Reform,1861-1875. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
Drago, Edmund. Hurrah for Hampton: Black Red Shirts in South Carolina during Reconstruction. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1998.
Du Bois, W.E.B. Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880. New York: Touchstone, 1995.
Eaton, John. Grant, Lincoln, and the Freedmen. Cambridge: University Press, 1907.
Eirligh, Everett. Grant Speaks. New York: Warner Books, 2000.
Faust, Drew Gilpin. James Henry Hammond and the Old South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982.
Fischer, Roger A. The Segregation Struggle in Louisiana 1862-1877. University of Illinois Press, 1974.
Fitzgerald, Michael W. The Union League Movement in the Deep South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.
Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.
----. A Short History of Reconstruction. New York: Perennial Library, 1990.
Foner, Eric and Mahoney, Olivia America's Reconstruction: People and Politics after the Civil War . New York: Harper Perennial, 1995.
Forbes, Ella. African American Women during the Civil War. New York: Garland, 1998.
Frankel, Noralee. Freedom's Women: Black Women and Families in Civil War Era Mississippi. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1999.
Franklin, John Hope. Reconstruction after the Civil War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.
Grant, Ulysses S. Grant: Memoirs and Selected Letters. Washington, DC: The Library of America, 1990.
Gutman, Herbert G. Slavery and the Numbers Game. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975.
Hakim, Joy. Reconstruction and Reform, 1865-1870. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Harlan, Malvina Shanklin. Some Memories of A Long Life, 1854-1911. Journal of Supreme Court History, v.26, no. 2, 2001.
Hermann, Janet Sharp. Joseph E. Davis: Pioneer Patriarch. University Press of Mississippi, 1990.
----. Pursuit of a Dream. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Hesseltine, William B. Ulysses S. Grant: Politican. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1967.
Hollandsworth, James An Absolute Massacre: the New Orleans Race Riot of July 30, 1866. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.
Holt, Thomas and Glymph, Thavolia. Major Problems in African-American History: Documents and Essays. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Houzeau, Jean-Charles. My Passage at the New Orleans Tribune: A Memoir of the Civil War Era. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984.
Hutchinson, A. Code of Mississippi: Being an Analytical Compilation of the Public and General Statutes of the Territory and State with Tabular References to the Local and Private Acts from 1798 to 1848. Price and Fall, 1848.
Jaynes, Gerald David. Branches Without Roots. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Kaltman, Al. Cigars, Whiskey and Winning: Leadership Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant. Paramus: Prentice Hall Press, 1998.
Keegan, John. The Mask of Command. New York: Viking, 1987.
Lockett Avary, Myrta. Dixie after the War: An Exposition of Social Conditions Existing in the South During the Twelve Years Succeeding the Fall of Richmond. New York: Doubleday, 1906.
Murray, Pauli. Proud Shoes. Boston: Beacon Press, 1956.
Nelson, Scott Reynolds. Iron Confederacies: Southern Railways, Klan Violence and Reconstruction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
Nolen, Claude H. African American Southerners in Slavery, Civil War and Reconstruction. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001.
Pearson, Elizabeth Ware. Letters from Port Royal Written at the Time of the Civil War. Boston: W.B. Clarke Company, 1906.
Perret, Geoffrey. Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier and President. New York: Random House, 1997.
Potts, Bobby. Historic Homes of the Deep South and Delta Country. New Orleans: Express Publishing, 1992.
Richardson, Heather Cox. The Death of Reconstruction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.
Ripley, C. Peter. The Black Abolitionist Papers, vol. IV, The United States, 1847-1858. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.
Rosengarten, Theodore. Tombee: Portrait of a Cotton Planter. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1987.
Schwalm, Leslie. A Hard Fight For We. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.
Schweiniger, Loren. James T. Rapier and Reconstruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
Shockley, Ann Allen. Afro-American Women Writers. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1988.
Simpson, Brooks D. The Reconstruction Presidents. St. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.
Smith, Jean Edward. Grant. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001.
Smith, John David. Black Voices from Reconstruction, 1865-1877. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997.
Sterling, Dorothy. We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the 19th Century. New York: W.W. Norton, 1984.
Sumners, Cecil L. The Governors of Mississippi. New York: Pelican Publishing Company, 1998.
Taylor, Richard. Deconstruction and Reconstruction. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1955.
Thomas, Benjamin, ed. Three Years With Grant. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.
Tindall, George Brown. South Carolina Negroes, 1877-1900. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1952.
White, Howard A. The Freedmen's Bureau in Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1970.
Wilkie, Curtis. Dixie: A Personal Odyssey Through Historic Events That Shaped the Modern South. New York: Scribner, 2001.
Wilkins, Roger. Jefferson's Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism. Boston: Beacon Press, 2001.
Willis, John C. Forgotten Time: The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta after the Civil War. Charlottesville: University Press of Viriginia, 2000.
Woodward, C. Vann. The Burden of Southern History. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993.
----. The Strange Career of Jim Crow: A Commemorative Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1890s. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
Zuczek, Richard. State of Rebellion: Reconstruction in South Carolina. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.
Consult the further reading page for a list of books and Web sites related to Reconstruction.
A number of people appeared on-camera and/or acted as advisors and are listed below. See the complete film credits for more information.
On-camera interview subjects
Edward L. Ayers, historian
David W. Blight, historian
Russell Duncan, historian
Drew Gilpin Faust, historian
Eric Foner, historian
James G. Marston, III, descendant of planter
Dana D. Nelson, historian
Nell Irvin Painter, historian
Ted Tunnell, historian
Clarence E. Walker, historian
Edward L. Ayers
David W. Blight
James O. Horton
Clarence E. Walker
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