This book is, for the most part, unknown, even among history buffs, as I am. (I actually stumbled upon it more than 30 years ago. Someone had placed it among the trash!) This book though covers one of the most important periods in American history, after the Civil War (1861-65), and after Reconstruction (1865-77), specifically 1877 (the end of Reconstruction) through 1919 (the end of World War I).
The Reconstruction years pointed towards what America could be, if she wanted to live up to her lofty ideals, for all people in the continental United States, and beyond.
The year 1876 marks the election of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th American president. To this day, President Hayes’ election is the most contested election in American history – Trump’s presidency will be an aberrational footnote in American history – and was certified because of a compromise, the Hayes-Tilden Compromise. In a nutshell, Southern power brokers negotiated this Compromise, getting Hayes and his party to withdraw the last Federal troops occupying the South. With that done, Southerners returned to business as usual, terrorizing Black people who asserted their newfound rights, and nullifying the post-Civil War Amendments (the 13th, abolishing slavery unless duly convicted of a crime; the 14th, revolving around basic fundamental rights of all Americans, that is, Black people; and the 15th, giving Black men the right to vote).
I often write and talk about the Decisive Decade (the 1960’s), but what happened in the aftermath of Reconstruction set the stage for what America was for the next 100 years: the origins of hyper incarceration; legal segregation; race riots; the wholesale brutalization of Black people; the destruction of the Black Wall Street, etc.
In this book there’s a section on the portrayal of Black people in the media, even the “liberal” media, during this period, shameless caricatures that play into stereotypes even to this day (think white people in blackface, how this stereotype tickles their funny bones). The book is worth its price for this alone!