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The Struggle for Equality

The Struggle for Equality: Essays on Sectional Conflict, the Civil War, and the Long Reconstruction

Orville Vernon Burton
Jerald Podair
Jennifer L. Weber
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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    The Struggle for Equality
    Book Description:

    This collection of essays, organized around the theme of the struggle for equality in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, also serves to honor the renowned Civil War historian James McPherson. Complete with a brief interview with the celebrated scholar, this volume reflects the best aspects of McPherson's work, while casting new light on the struggle that has served as the animating force of his lifetime of scholarship. With a chronological span from the 1830s to the 1960s, the contributions bear witness to the continuing vigor of the argument over equality.

    Contributors>: Orville Vernon Burton, Clemson University * Tom Carhart, Independent Scholar * Catherine Clinton, Queen's University Belfast * Thomas C. Cox, University of Southern California * Bruce Dain, University of Utah * John M. Giggie, University of Alabama * Michele Gillespie, Wake Forest University * Joseph T. Glatthaar, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill * Brian Greenberg, Monmouth University * James K. Hogue, University of North Carolina, Charlotte * Judith A. Hunter, State University of New York, Geneseo * Ryan P. Jordan, University of San Diego * Philip M. Katz, American Association of Museums * Monroe H. Little, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis * Peyton McCrary, U.S. Department of Justice * Jerald Podair, Lawrence University * Jennifer L. Weber, University of Kansas * Ronald C. White Jr., University of California Los Angeles

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3177-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: James M. McPherson and the Struggle for American Equality
    (pp. 1-14)
    Orville Vernon Burton and Jerald Podair

    No single word has divided Americans more than “equality.” Deceptively simple, it is a marker for the complexities of national identity. Arguments over its scope and meaning have been so passionate because the stakes have been so high. Those who control the word “equality” control the direction of American history itself.

    The essays in this volume seek to tell the story of the struggle for equality in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—to define it, achieve it, and defend it. They do not, of course, offer a complete accounting of that struggle. No single volume could....

  5. I. Sectional Conflict

    • The Radicalism of the Abolitionists Revisited: The Case of the Society of Friends
      (pp. 17-28)
      Ryan P. Jordan

      Though possibly forgotten by younger scholars, James McPherson’s first success as a professional historian came not with a work about the Civil War per se, but with the publication of a study of abolitionism,The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction,released the same year as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This book represented one of many reevaluations of the nineteenth-century abolitionists—men and women who still suffered from the “irresponsible agitator” image held by historians at the time ofThe Struggle for Equality’s release. As with other books written by young...

    • Abolitionism as Logical Conclusion: General James S. Wadsworth as a Case Study in Anti-Southern Sentiment and the Radicalizing Experience of the Civil War
      (pp. 29-40)
      Judith A. Hunter

      When James S. Wadsworth, a prominent Union general well-known for his military exploits, his politics, and his background, died after the battle of the Wilderness in 1864, it moved a North that had seen all too many deaths. In fact, John Hay remarked that Abraham Lincoln felt the loss of Wadsworth keenly:

      I have not known the President so affected by a personal loss since the death of [Colonel Edward D.] Baker, as by the death of General Wadsworth. . . . [Lincoln said that] no man has given himself up to the war with such self-sacrificing patriotism as Gen....

    • Our Man in Paris: John Meredith Read Jr. and the Discontents of American Republicanism, 1860–1896
      (pp. 41-56)
      Philip M. Katz

      Mark Twain satirized the regional pretensions of America’s upper classes at the end of the nineteenth century by repeating a popular joke: “In Boston they ask, How much does he know? in New York, How much is he worth? in Philadelphia, Who were his parents?”¹ John Meredith Read Jr., who was born in 1837 and died in 1896, had good answers to all three questions. The nosy Philadelphian would learn that Read was the scion of a distinguished local family, with a lineage that included three signers of the Declaration of Independence (Read, Ross, and Clymer), a number of prominent...

  6. II. Civil War

    • A Dynamic for Success and Failure: Discipline, Cause, and Comrades in the Relationship between Officers and Enlisted Men in Lee’s Army
      (pp. 59-75)
      Joseph T. Glatthaar

      What our officers most lack is the pains & labour of inculcating discipline,” General Robert E. Lee complained to President Jefferson Davis in mid-August 1864. “It is a painful and tedious process, & is not apt to win popular favour. Many officers have too many selfish views to promote to induce them to undertake the task of instructing & disciplining their Commands. To succeed it is necessary to set the example, & this necessarily confines them to their duties, their camp & mess, which is disagreeable & deprives them of pleasant visits, dinners & c.” Lee believed his enlisted men...

    • All the President’s Men: The Politicization of Union Soldiers and How They Saved Abraham Lincoln
      (pp. 76-90)
      Jennifer L. Weber

      In August 1864, Abraham Lincoln’s hopes for reelection were fading quickly. The nation had been at war for more than three years and appeared to have little to show for it. The Union armies had suffered a terrible bloodletting, even by Civil War standards, in the late spring and summer. Yet by August they were all at a standstill. Sickened by the bloodshed and tired of war, a significant portion of the North wanted peace, regardless of the price. Rising antiwar sentiment helped propel the peace wing of the Democratic Party to a new position of prominence and power in...

    • Abraham Lincoln’s Last “Stump Speech”: September 3, 1863
      (pp. 91-99)
      Ronald C. White Jr.

      Abraham Lincoln received an invitation on August 14, 1863, that surely caused his heart to jump. He was asked to deliver an address at what organizers were calling the largest popular meeting of the war in support of the Union. The rally was to be held in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, on September 3.

      The invitation to Lincoln was presented by James C. Conkling, Lincoln’s Springfield friend and neighbor. He told Lincoln, “Not only would thousands who will be here be prepared to receive you with the warmest enthusiasm but the whole country would be eager to extend to...

    • “The Power of Making Me Miserable”: Abraham Lincoln and Race
      (pp. 100-118)
      Bruce Dain

      Where does Abraham Lincoln fit in the spectrum of American racial attitudes? Thousands of books have been written about Lincoln. Many more consider race, slavery, and the Civil War era. Yet there remains no consensus on Lincoln and race. Lincoln scholarship and race scholarship mesh awkwardly at best. Lincoln scholars tend to take Lincoln as typical of his background, but flexible and capable of dramatic change. They see his racial attitudes as secondary to his political growth. He moves from provincial frontier Whig, unsure of himself and worshipping moderation and compromise; to confident antislavery Republican, scourging those who wished to...

    • “Public Women” and Sexual Politics during the American Civil War
      (pp. 119-134)
      Catherine Clinton

      War produces cultural shifts so dramatic that attitudes, mores, and morality undergo sea changes when nations are under siege. Why should the American Civil War be any different? Yet unearthing evidence on this topic continues to be challenging, for as Civil War scholar Bell Wiley complained, families censored soldiers’ letters, and veterans avoided this topic in their reminiscences.¹ A legacy of silence on sexual subjects remained in force for nearly a century after the war.

      Regardless of reticence, the Civil War created the largest increase in the sex trade in nineteenth-century America, perhaps the single greatest growth spurt in the...

  7. III. The Long Reconstruction

    • Wendell Phillips and the Idea of Industrial Democracy in Early Postbellum America
      (pp. 137-152)
      Brian Greenberg

      In April 1869, Wendell Phillips, an ardent abolitionist and acclaimed orator, outlined his labor reform philosophy to a committee of the Massachusetts legislature holding hearings on a proposal to create the first state bureau of labor statistics in the United States. In his testimony, Phillips articulated the ethical principles that he believed underlay the economic questions before the legislators: “Our institutions,” Phillips told the committee members, “rest on the laboring classes, and the purity and independence, individuality and personal self-respect of that body is the cornerstone of our republican institutions.” Yet more and more, “one of the great evils which...

    • The Strange Career of Jim Longstreet: History and Contingency in the Civil War Era
      (pp. 153-171)
      James K. Hogue

      Early on the sweltering afternoon of July 3, 1863, just south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet stood on Seminary Ridge clad in a gray Rebel uniform. It was a decisive moment, and to many historians perhapsthedecisive moment in the Civil War. The trusted lieutenant of General Robert E. Lee was poised to unleash what the Confederate high command desperately hoped would be the ultimate charge of the Civil War. The struggle between two rival American governments had entered its third year. The Confederate army had never been before, nor would it ever be again, as...

    • The Grasshopper Plague, 1874–1878, and Social Welfare: The Postbellum Prospects for Relief, Recovery, and Reform
      (pp. 172-182)
      Thomas C. Cox

      A massive invasion of Rocky Mountain locusts struck Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri with relentless severity in the summer of 1874. The Grasshopper Plague, as it was commonly known, continued through 1877, though its intensity abated. At its broadest range, the plague swallowed nearly one quarter of the continent. It engulfed an area extending from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River and from two hundred miles north of the Canadian border into northern Texas. The plague was perhaps the single most serious sustained crisis in Great Plains agriculture during the nineteenth century.

      This agricultural disaster, which occurred in...

    • The Wrongful Court-Martial and Posthumous Presidential Pardon of Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper, USMA 1877
      (pp. 183-197)
      Tom Carhart

      Though he had spent the first ten years of his life as a slave in Georgia, Henry O. Flipper graduated from West Point in 1877, the first African American to earn a diploma from that institution. In 1878, Flipper’s memoir of his days at West Point,The Colored Cadet at West Point,was published in New York by Homer Lee and Company. Thus, by the age of twenty-one, Flipper had earned a degree from West Point; was finishing his West Point memoir; and had orders to head for the frontier, where he would command U.S. cavalry troops and play a...

    • For God and Lodge: Black Fraternal Orders and the Evolution of African American Religion in the Postbellum South
      (pp. 198-218)
      John M. Giggie

      In 1873, the Catholic leader of Mississippi, Bishop William Elder, completed a painstaking evaluation of the social and spiritual lives of blacks dwelling in his state. In a letter penned to a fellow bishop, Elder described some of his findings. Like many of his more liberal contemporaries, he described the advances made by former slaves as well as their daily struggles to overcome generations of hardship. But the bishop also offered a curious observation about the character of black religion. He wrote that “the secret societies are drawing many of them into their enclave.”¹ Unfortunately, Elder failed to elaborate on...

    • Peddling the Lost Cause: A Southern White Woman at Work
      (pp. 219-237)
      Michele Gillespie

      Mary Ann Harris Gay (1829–1918) never married, survived wartime hardships, and endured a succession of personal tragedies during her eighty-nine long years. She was the author of three books published over her lifetime; her second,Life in Dixie(1892), brought her considerable fame. Her contemporaries hailed her as a true daughter of the South, celebrating her heroism on the Civil War home front and her sustained commitment to the Southern cause. During the last years of her life, she was famous in her hometown of Decatur, Georgia, for wearing mourning clothes in honor of her Civil War dead. Walter...

    • Race and Municipal Reform in the Progressive Era: The Adoption of At-Large Elections in Norfolk, Virginia, 1914–1918
      (pp. 238-253)
      Peyton McCrary

      From the First Reconstruction through the Second, white Southerners have often used at-large elections—requiring candidates to win citywide or countywide, rather than just in the ward where they live—as a way of diluting the voting strength of African Americans.¹ Because racial minorities tend to be residentially segregated, blacks often represent a majority of the prospective voters in one or two election districts or wards. When elections are conducted at large, however, minority voters are submerged in the larger pool of white voters; when those whites vote along racial lines, in turn, the chance that African Americans will be...

    • School of a Soldier: World War II as a Transformative Experience in the Life of Dr. Joseph T. Taylor
      (pp. 254-275)
      Monroe H. Little

      America’s wars have been an important source of literature and a theme for many of the nation’s major writers. What would the nation’s literary heritage be without James Fenimore Cooper’s leather-stocking tales (1823–1841), Stephen Crane’sThe Red Badge of Courage(1895), Ernest Hemingway’sA Farewell to Arms(1929), Norman Mailer’sThe Naked and the Dead(1948), or Joseph Heller’s immortal classicCatch-22(1955)? The Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam War have had a profound impact on American society and culture, and the literary treatment of them continues to influence our concepts of war, its...

    • An Awful Choice: Bayard Rustin and New York City’s Civil Rights Wars, 1968
      (pp. 276-287)
      Jerald Podair

      It all looked so promising on August 28, 1963, at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Ralph Abernathy of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said it was the greatest day of his life.¹ Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the signature speech of the American civil rights movement. White labor leaders such as Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers, and Albert Shanker, of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT), were prominent participants. But the day may have been sweetest of all for the man who had planned the march, the veteran African American socialist Bayard...

    • America’s Historian: A Brief Conversation with James McPherson
      (pp. 289-292)
      James McPherson and Orville Vernon Burton

      In this interview with Orville Vernon Burton, James McPherson discusses how he came to history, his interest in the Civil War as our nation’s defining event, and the role of the historian in American society and culture.

      OVB: How did you become interested in history, what attracted you to it, and what value does history have in our society?

      JM: When I entered college, I had no idea of what subject I might major in and what career I might want to follow. In my freshman year, however, I was turned on by the introductory “History of Western Civilization” course,...

  8. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 293-296)
  9. Index
    (pp. 297-306)