Reconstruction Period Research Forum
Reconstruction & National Growth 1865-1900
Reconstruction and National Growth 1865-1900 by William Loren Katz.....Minorities in American History Volume 3. (1974)
While organizing my work area and book shelves I came across this title which I hadn't looked at for several years. This forum is the perfect place to share some vignettes....(literary sketches) found in each chapter. The first is from the chapter 'Black Reconstruction' and is titled Twisting History.
Perhaps no period in American history has been bent as far as the truth as Reconstruction. From serious scholars to Hollywood movies this era of black progress and accomplishment has been pictured as a "tragic era" of black domination, corruption, and inefficiency. The movie "Birth of a Nation" showed a black lieutenant govenor chasing a sweet white girl over a cliff. In "Gone with the Wind", Margaret Mitchell wrote that the "former slaves were now the lords of creation" while the "better class of them" were " scorning freedom."
In the Encylopedia Brittanica noted historian Frederick Jackson Turner wrote of "colored members in some states engaging in a saturnalia of corrupt expenditure." Soon these distortions were carried to the millions of school children through textbooks. In "These United States", Emerson David Fite described Reconstruction in these words: 'Foolish laws were passed by the black lawmakers. The public money was wasted terribly and thousands of dollares were stolen straight. Self-respecting Southerners chafed under the horrible regime'.
Such texts glorified or justified the Ku Klux Klan attacks on the black-white governmens and officials. Birth of a Nation pictured white-robed klansmen riding to save civilization from black barbarism.
Why the twisting of Reconstruction history? If former slaves made good lawmakers and conscientious public official, several important myths collapsed. For example, the myth of the ignorant, happy slave. Then the myth the white supremacy was necessary since blacks could not rule themselves. The truth of Reconstruction under-mined all efforts to justify slavery, and the second-class citizenship.