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From one of our most distinguished historians, a new examination of the vitally important years of Emancipation and Reconstruction during and immediately following the Civil War–a necessary reconsideration that emphasizes the era’s political and cultural meaning for today’s America.

In Forever Free, Eric Foner overturns numerous assumptions growing out of the traditional understanding of the period, which is based almost exclusively on white sources and shaped by (often unconscious) racism. He presents the period as a time of determination, especially on the part of recently emancipated black Americans, to put into effect the principles of equal rights and citizenship for all.

Drawing on a wide range of long-neglected documents, he places a new emphasis on the centrality of the black experience to an understanding of the era. We see African Americans as active agents in overthrowing slavery, in helping win the Civil War, and–even more actively–in shaping Reconstruction and creating a legacy long obscured and misunderstood. Foner makes clear how, by war’s end, freed slaves in the South built on networks of church and family in order to exercise their right of suffrage as well as gain access to education, land, and employment.

He shows us that the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and renewed acts of racial violence were retaliation for the progress made by blacks soon after the war. He refutes lingering misconceptions about Reconstruction, including the attribution of its ills to corrupt African American politicians and “carpetbaggers,” and connects it to the movements for civil rights and racial justice.

Joshua Brown’s illustrated commentary on the era’s graphic art and photographs complements the narrative. He offers a unique portrait of how Americans envisioned their world and time.

Forever Free is an essential contribution to our understanding of the events that fundamentally reshaped American life after the Civil War–a persuasive reading of history that transforms our sense of the era from a time of failure and despair to a threshold of hope and achievement.

Amazon.com Review

A Timeline of Emancipation

In Forever Free, Eric Foner, the leading historian of America''s Reconstruction era, reexamines one of the most misunderstood periods of American history: the struggle to overthrow slavery and establish freedom for African Americans in the years before, during, and after the Civil War. Forever Free is extensively illustrated, with visual essays by scholar Joshua Brown discussing the images of the period alongside Foner''s text.

1787 The United States Constitution is ratified, containing several protections for slavery, including the Fugitive Slave Clause, three-fifths clause, and a cause prohibiting the abolition of the slave trade from Africa before 1808.
1829-31 Publication of Appeal ... to the Coloured Citizens of the World by David Walker and The Liberator, a weekly newspaper edited by William Lloyd Garrison, marks the emergence of a new, militant abolitionist movement.
Diagram of a slave ship from an 1808 report
1831 August 22 Nat Turner launches a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, resulting in the deaths of 55 whites persons before the uprising is crushed.
1846 August Congress adjourns after intense sectional debate over the Wilmot Proviso, a proposal to prohibit slavery in all territory acquired in the Mexican-American War.
1860 November 6 Election of Abraham Lincoln as president, representing the anti-slavery Republican Party
1861 February 4 Seven seceded southern states form the Confederate States of America
April 12 The Confederate attack on South Carolina''s Fort Sumter begins the Civil War.
A woodcut published in an 1831 account of the Nat Turner uprising
May 24 Gen. Benjamin F. Butler declares fugitive slaves at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, "contraband of war," who will not be returned to their owners.
August 6 First Confiscation Act provides for the emancipation of slaves employed as laborers by the Confederate army.
1862 April 16 Congress abolishes slavery in the District of Columbia with compensation to loyal owners, and also appropriates funds for "colonization" of freed slaves outside the United States.
July 17 Second Confiscation Act frees slaves of disloyal owners.
September 22 Five days after the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln issues the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which warns the South that if the rebellion has not ended by January 1, he will emancipate the slaves. It also promises aid to states that adopt plans for gradual, compensated emancipation and refers to colonization of freed people outside the country.
1863 January 1 Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in areas under Confederate control. It exempts Tennessee and parts of Louisiana and Virginia and does not apply to the border states, and also authorizes the enlistment of black soldiers.
"Contrabands" in Cumberland Landing, Virginia, May 1862
July 30 Lincoln insists black Union soldiers captured by the Confederate army be treated as prisoners of war, not escaped slaves as Confederate president Jefferson Davis has threatened.
December 8 Lincoln issues the Proclamation of Amnesty of Reconstruction, offering a pardon and restoration of property (except slave property) to Confederates who take an oath of allegiance to the Union.
1864 September 5 New constitution of Louisiana abolishes slavery; new constitutions in Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee follow suit in the next six months.
November 8 Lincoln reelected as president.
January 16 Gen. William T. Sherman issues Special Field Order 15, setting aside land in coastal South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida for settlement by black families in 40-acre plots.
March 3 Congress orders emancipation of wives and children of black soldiers.
March 13 Confederate Congress authorizes enlistment of black soldiers.
April 11 In the last speech before his death, two days after Lee''s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, Lincoln favors limited black suffrage in the South.
Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln, Washington, DC
April 14 Assassination of Lincoln.
December 18 Ratification of the 13th Amendment irrevocably abolishes slavery throughout the United States.
1866 April 9 Over the veto of President Andrew Johnson, Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, establishing citizenship of black Americans and requiring that they be accorded equality before the law, principles later written into the Constitution in the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868.
John Wilkes Booth assassinates Lincoln, April 1865
1867 March 2 Congress passes the Reconstruction Act, again over President Johnson''s veto, extending the right to vote to black men in the South and inaugurating the era of Radical Reconstruction, America''s first experiment in interracial democracy.
1877 February After intense bargaining to resolve the disputed presidential election of 1876, Democrats agree to recognize Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as president, and Hayes agrees to end federal support for remaining Reconstruction governments.
A March 1867 cartoon, following the passage of the Reconstruction Act, shows President Johnson and his southern allies angrily watching African Americans vote.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Probably no period in American history is as controversial, as distorted by myth and as "essentially unknown" as the era of emancipation and Reconstruction, award-winning historian Foner ( The Story of American Freedom; Reconstruction; etc.) argues in this dense, rectifying but highly readable account. His analysis of "that turbulent era, its successes and failures, and its long-term consequences up until this very day" addresses the debates among historians, corrects the misrepresentations and separates myth from fact with persuasive data. Foner opens his work with an overview of slavery and the Civil War and concludes with a consideration of the Civil Rights movement and the continuing impact of Reconstruction upon the current political scene, a framework that adds to the clarity of his history of that era, its aftermath and its legacy. Joshua Brown''s six interspersed "visual essays," with his fresh commentary on images from slavery through Reconstruction to Jim Crow, buttress Foner''s text and contribute to its accessibility. In his mission to illuminate Reconstruction''s critical repercussions for contemporary American culture, Foner balances his passion for racial equality and social justice with disciplined scholarship. His book is a valuable, fluid introduction to a complex period. 139 illus. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–This is a more accessible, though equally distinguished, treatment of the material covered in Foners Reconstruction (HarperCollins, 1989). It draws on his earlier work and also on more recent scholarship to present a particularly complex time in American history and to correct common misconceptions about the period (1865-1877). Especially significant is the clear explanation of how the historical record refutes negative stereotypes of ex-slaves widely disseminated after the Civil War. Racist images of these newly enfranchised citizens as inferior, passive individuals easily manipulated by white anti-Southerners were accepted by many historians well into the 20th century, and the distortions were supported in the wider culture by popular entertainment, novels, and films, e.g., Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind. This book shows that African Americans took active roles in fighting for freedom and leading postwar attempts to establish political and social equality. Six absorbing Visual Essays, edited with commentary by Brown, use archival illustrations and photos to examine how graphic arts influenced public attitudes toward African Americans during and after Reconstruction. An epilogue, The Unfinished Revolution, links the main themes to issues still challenging the U.S. at the beginning of the 21st century, raising questions virtually assured to prompt classroom discussion. –Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Foner, a history professor at Columbia University, breaks with the stereotype of uncouth freedmen ill prepared to assume roles in a Reconstruction government beyond their intellectual capacities, a stereotype projected by popular culture including the film Birth of a Nation. Instead, he presents the freedmen as people who embraced the ideals and possibilities of freedom and citizenship, using their pre-emancipation institutional concepts of family and church to work within local governments while exercising their right to vote. The freedmen sought public education, fair wages, and access to land in pursuit of their ideal of citizenship. But the counterforces of the landed gentry in the South, dependent on black labor, impeded the incorporation of blacks into full citizenship. The success of this resistance necessitated the modern civil rights era, which continued efforts to fulfill the promises of Reconstruction. Foner intersperses throughout the book visual essays that include commentary, photographs, and illustrations that reflects how blacks viewed themselves. These visual essays add a dimension that broadens the context for understanding both past and present struggles by blacks for full American citizenship. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

“A highly readable story of black Americans’ ongoing heroic struggle for freedom . . . Beautifully told.” – The Washington Post Book World

“Passionate, lucid, concise without being light. . . . Foner traces the lines of race and politics that run from Reconstruction to the age of segregation to the civil rights movement to our own time.” – The New York Times Book Review

“Foner delves deeply into the politics of the time, to be sure, but he spends much more time showing how political decisions affected real people. . . . This book has the potential to become a model for future history books that target a broader audience.” – The Washington Monthly

“African Americans emerge as political powerful actors in Forever Free. In [these] vivid pages . . . we become acquainted with these extraordinary people, some well-known, some virtually unknown.” – The New Republic


From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Eric Foner, a winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize, is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His books include The Story of American Freedom and Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War. He lives in New York City.

Joshua Brown is the executive director of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His books include Beyond the Lines: Pictorial Reporting, Everyday Life, and the Crisis of Gilded Age America. He lives in New York City.

This book is the first effort of the Los Angeles-based Forever Free Project, an ongoing collaboration among film and television producers and writers and our most distinguished historians and scholars. The Forever Free Project is preparing a film on Emancipation and Reconstruction.

From The Washington Post

In the first half of the 20th century, white Americans remembered the chaotic decades after the Civil War as a "tragic era" when bestial ex-slaves ruled a prostrated white race, throwing noble white leaders out of government, stealing public funds that black legislators extracted through exorbitant taxation, and assaulting innocent white girls. After seeing D.W. Griffith''s 1915 film "The Birth of a Nation," which championed gallant Ku Klux Klansmen for upholding civilization against criminal blacks, President Woodrow Wilson is said to have remarked of the film, "My only regret is that it is all terribly true." White Americans embraced this racist history to justify overwhelming discrimination and violence against African Americans. Forever Free is the culmination of 50 years of attacks on this specious version of Reconstruction and should finally lay to rest whatever remnants of this view still remain. During the civil rights movement, historians reexamining the post-Civil War years concluded that the terrible truth of the era was actually that Americans had reversed the heroes and villains. Combing the historical record, scholars discovered that black legislators never controlled Southern state governments, that postwar taxes paid for the region''s first public schools and that black men were typically accused of rape only after they already had been lynched. Southern African Americans themselves gradually came into focus; they were hard workers chiseled out of their wages, they were family men and women trying to create a world where their children would have opportunities, and they were victims of the Klan. Many white Southerners underwent their own transformation in these years, exposed as terrorists who cheated workers and then killed those who protested, ultimately turning to a campaign of lynching and legalized segregation to reinstate white racial superiority over their black neighbors. In Forever Free, the prizewinning Columbia historian Eric Foner (along with the media scholar Joshua Brown, who edited and annotated the book''s many illustrations) summarizes these studies, breaking little new ground but presenting a highly readable story of black Americans'' ongoing heroic struggle for freedom in a racist white society. Here black Union soldiers claim manhood as they fight for emancipation, and freedmen demand economic and political rights during the complicated politics of the late 1860s. Some eventually become successful entrepreneurs or prominent politicians. Gradually, though, black gains recede after 1870 as racist whites regain control. By the turn of the century, black Americans still occupy the bottom tier of a racialized nation, repressed into subservience when they try to exercise economic or political rights. Interspersed between Foner''s chapters, Brown''s engaging essays investigate the meaning of 19th-century racial drawings, cartoons and photographs, celebrating the courageous attempt of black Americans to control their images in a nation that loved black caricature. In a final, eloquent chapter on the 20th century, Foner demands that the nation address its long repression of African Americans and insists that the quest to establish racial equality remains unfinished. Forever Free counters old-fashioned histories of Reconstruction more effectively than it explains the era itself. The image of a handful of black freedom fighters standing against a unified nation of white oppressors obscures the true diversity of the postwar struggle for equality. Women, American Indians, Chinese, Irish, Southern European and Mexican immigrants -- as well as wage laborers -- were all trying to negotiate a new kind of freedom in the wake of the Civil War. Like African Americans, these groups were often cruelly caricatured and suffered political and economic oppression as well as physical violence. Like black Americans, they fought to define what American freedom should mean, were often disappointed by society and sometimes died for their beliefs. Their presence in the Reconstruction struggle challenges Forever Free''s contention that white racism alone determined the course of the nation. If racism was the defining feature of the nation, why was the 15th Amendment guaranteeing black suffrage ratified 50 years before the 19th Amendment establishing women''s suffrage? The answer is that the fortunes of different groups shifted as various interests fought for control of postwar America. But Forever Free is curiously quiet about political competition and the class tensions that drove it. It suggests that whites and blacks fought over suffrage without reference to political policies. In fact, white opponents of black suffrage hammered on the idea that black voters would support politicians who promised welfare legislation, paid for by taxes levied on propertied whites. When this idea took hold during economic downturns, suffrage became limited to those perceived to be supporters of conservative regimes -- usually (but not always) white men. Increasingly, powerful Americans embraced the idea that those who did not own taxable property should not decide how tax money was spent. By 1900, voting restrictions across the nation kept poor Americans, black and white alike, away from the polls. By the 20th century, political invective about tax reform had turned certain groups of white Americans into killers who found it entertaining to lynch the black men they thought threatened their own prosperity. The story recounted in Forever Free is heroic and beautifully told, but ultimately it is too simple for today''s America. Foner offers a tutorial in racism and seeks to illuminate current debates over affirmative action and reparations by suggesting that racial equality cannot be realized until entrenched white racism is addressed. But the events of the Reconstruction period illuminate a larger national struggle over who should have a say in government when voting determines how tax dollars are spent. That 19th-century demands for tax reform blossomed into festive 20th-century gatherings where black people were lynched seems a perilous lesson for today''s Americans to ignore. ~ Heather Cox Richardson is an associate professor of history at the Univ. of Massachusetts at Amherst and the author of "The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901."

Reviewed by Heather Cox Richardson
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

On the evening of January 12, 1865, twenty leaders of the local black community gathered in Savannah, Georgia, for a discussion with General William T. Sherman and Edwin M. Stanton, the Union’s secretary of war. The encounter took place at a pivotal moment in American history. Less than three weeks earlier, Sherman, at the head of a sixty-thousand-man Union army, had captured the city, completing his March to the Sea, which cut a swath of destruction through one of the most productive regions of the slave South. On the horizon loomed the final collapse of the Confederacy, the irrevocable destruction of slavery, and the turbulent postwar era known as Reconstruction. Americans, black and white, would now have to come to terms with the war’s legacy, and decide whether they would build an interracial democracy on the ashes of the Old South.

One of the most remarkable interchanges of those momentous years, the “Colloquy” between Sherman, Stanton, and the black leaders offered a rare lens through which the experience of slavery and the aspirations that would help to shape Reconstruction came into sharp focus. The meeting, which took place in the house where Sherman had established his headquarters in Savannah, was the brainchild of Secretary Stanton, who, the general later recalled, “seemed desirous of coming into contact with the negroes to confer with them.” It was Sherman who invited “the most intelligent of the negroes” of the city to the gathering. The immediate purpose was to assist Union authorities in devising a plan to deal with the tens of thousands of slaves who had abandoned Georgia and South Carolina plantations and followed his army to the city. But in its deeper significance, the discussion, conducted in a dignified, almost solemn manner, revealed how the experience of bondage had shaped African Americans’ ideas and hopes at the moment of emancipation.

The group that met with Sherman and Stanton, mostly Baptist and Methodist ministers, included several men who had already achieved prominence among Savannah’s African American population and who would shortly assume positions of leadership in Reconstruction. Ulysses L. Houston, who had worked as a house servant and butcher while in slavery, had since 1861 been pastor of the city’s Third African Baptist Church. He would go on to take part in the statewide black convention of 1866, where representatives of the freedpeople demanded the right to vote and equality before the law, and to serve in the state legislature. James Porter, an Episcopal vestryman, before the war operated a clandestine and illegal school for black children, who “kept their secret with their studies; at home.” He would soon help to organize the Georgia Equal Rights Association, and, like Houston, become one of the era’s black lawmakers. James D. Lynch would rise to prominence in Mississippi’s Reconstruction, serving as secretary of state and winning a reputation, in the words of a white contemporary, as “a great orator, fluid and graceful,” who “stirred the emotions” of his black listeners “as no other man could do.” Most of the other Colloquy participants would play major roles in the consolidation of independent black churches, one of the signal developments of the postwar years.

If the Colloquy looked forward to the era of Reconstruction, it also shed light backward onto slavery. Taking place, as it were, at the dawn of freedom, it underscored both the diversity of the black experience under slavery and the common culture—the institutions, values, and aspirations—that African Americans had managed to construct before the Civil War in the face of the extraordinary repression and dislocations visited by slavery.

The group that met with Sherman was hardly typical of all blacks. Only 5 percent of the nation’s black population was free in 1860, but five of the twenty men who met with Sherman were freeborn, and of the remainder, no fewer than six had obtained their liberty before the war, either by self-purchase or through the will of a deceased owner. Although the law forbade teaching slaves to read and write, several at the Colloquy were literate. Houston had been taught to read by white sailors while working in the city’s Marine Hospital. Lynch, the only participant in the Colloquy to live in the North before the war, had been educated at Kimball Union Academy, in New Hampshire, taught school in Jamaica, New York, and preached for the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Indiana prior to 1860. These were men of talent, ambition, and standing, fully prepared for the challenges of freedom.

The conversation with Sherman and Stanton revealed that the black leaders possessed clear conceptions of slavery and freedom. The group chose at its spokesman Garrison Frazier, a Baptist minister who had purchased the liberty of his wife and himself in 1856. Asked what he understood by slavery, Frazier responded that it meant one person’s “receiving by irresistible power the work of another man, and not by his consent.” Freedom he defined as “placing us where we could reap the fruit of our own labor, and take care of ourselves”; the best way to accomplish this was “to have land, and turn it and till it by our own labor.” Frazier also affirmed (despite pro-slavery dogma to the contrary) that blacks, free and slave, possessed “sufficient intelligence” to maintain themselves in freedom and to enjoy the equal protection of the laws. Here were the goals—the right to the fruits of one’s labor, access to land, equal rights as citizens—that would animate black politics during and after Reconstruction.

Despite Frazier’s optimism about blacks’ capacity to take full advantage of emancipation, slavery cast a long shadow over the discussion. Asked whether blacks preferred to live in communities of their own or “scattered among the whites,” he replied: “I would prefer to live by ourselves, for there is a prejudice against us in the South that will take years to get over.” (On this point alone, disagreement followed, for Lynch insisted it would be best for the races to live together; all the others, however, agreed with Frazier.) At the same time, Frazier affirmed the loyalty of African Americans, free and slave, to the federal government. “If the prayers that have gone up for the Union army could be read out,” he added, “you would not get through them these two weeks.” As for Sherman himself, Frazier remarked that blacks viewed him as a man “specially set apart by God” to “accomplish this work” of emancipation.

By the time of the Savannah Colloquy, slavery was an old institution in America. Two and a half centuries had passed since the first African Americans set foot in Britain’s mainland colonies. Before the American Revolution, slavery existed in all the colonies, and in Spanish Florida and French Louisiana, areas subsequently absorbed into the United States. Slavery is as old as human civilization itself. It was central to the societies of ancient Greece and Rome. After dying out in northern Europe after the collapse of the Roman empire, it persisted in the Mediterranean world, where a slave trade in Slavic peoples survived into the fifteenth century. (The English word slavery derives from Slav.) Slavery in Africa long predated the coming of Europeans and the opening of the mammoth transatlantic slave trade in the sixteenth century.

The slave system that arose in the western hemisphere differed in significant ways from others that preceded it. Traditionally, Africans enslaved on their own continent tended to be criminals, debtors, and captives in war. They worked within the households of their owners and had well-defined rights, such as possessing property and marrying free persons. It was not uncommon for slaves in Africa to acquire their freedom. Slavery was one of several forms of labor, not the basis of the overall economy as it would become in large parts of the New World. In the western hemisphere, by contrast, slavery centered on the plantation system, in which large concentrations of slave laborers under the control of a single owner produced goods—sugar, tobacco, rice, and cotton—for the world market. The fact that slaves greatly outnumbered whites in plantation regions magnified the prospects for resistance and made it necessary to police the system rigidly. Labor on slave plantations was far more demanding than in household slavery, and the death rate among slaves much higher. And New World slavery was a racial system. Unlike in the ancient world or Africa, slaves who managed to become free remained distinct because of their color, a mark of bondage and a visible sign of being considered unworthy of incorporation as equals into free society.

Slavery proved indispensable to the settlement and development of the New World. Of the approximately 12.5 million persons who crossed the Atlantic to live in the western hemisphere between 1500 and 1820, perhaps 10 million were African slaves. The Atlantic slave trade, which flourished from 1500 into the nineteenth century, was a regularized business in which European merchants, African traders, and American planters engaged in a complex and profitable bargaining over human lives. Most Africans were shipped in inhuman conditions. “The height, sometimes, between decks,” wrote one slave trader, “was only 18 inches, so that the unfortunate human beings could not turn around, or even on their sides . . . and here they are usually chained to the decks by their necks and legs.” Olaudah Equiano, the el...

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4.5 out of 54.5 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

Corey
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great book full if excellent source material
Reviewed in the United States on August 8, 2019
Great book that really helps the reader understand the realities of slavery and abolition and gain a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of enslaved people.
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LeaveYourFeedbackAlways
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Valuable Insights into the Most Minsunderstood Era in American History
Reviewed in the United States on February 17, 2018
Throughout Forever Free, Foner provides new insights into the forgotten history of the Reconstruction Era, an era, arguably the most misunderstood in American history. If you are looking for new perspectives and insights into American history, especially the most radical... See more
Throughout Forever Free, Foner provides new insights into the forgotten history of the Reconstruction Era, an era, arguably the most misunderstood in American history. If you are looking for new perspectives and insights into American history, especially the most radical period of democracy in American history, I cannot recommend this book enough.

Physically, this book is fantastic, the binding and paper quality is great.
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Clement Reader
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Reconstructing the Reconstruction
Reviewed in the United States on September 8, 2009
Forever Free is an excellent and detailed introduction to a new narrative about the Reconstuction period in the American South. For too long the American public has seen the Reconstruction largely through myths perpetrated by Southern Whites and given great publicity... See more
Forever Free is an excellent and detailed introduction to a new narrative about the Reconstuction period in the American South. For too long the American public has seen the Reconstruction largely through myths perpetrated by Southern Whites and given great publicity through such films as The Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind. Eric Foner is a prominent and leading voice in giving a more accurate account of the accomplishments of the Reconstruction and the struggles of Southern Blacks to form a government true to the principles of the American Constitution. His detailed stories of the period, its struggle for racial freedom and equality before the law, which was already losing momentum by 1876, is accompanied by images of American Blacks in the press during that time, showing how Blacks saw themselves and the general public saw them over the course of these developments. The Reconstruction was not a failed experiment. This book shows in words and pictures how the period laid the groundwork (in such measures as introducing public education to the South)for later positive developments in freedom for all Americans regardless of race.
6 people found this helpful
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Mayonne
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Eric Foner explains the Reconstruction Era in great detail with excellent descriptions of events
Reviewed in the United States on April 3, 2018
As usual, Eric Foner explains the Reconstruction Era in great detail with excellent descriptions of events, laws, and responses of politicians, southern landowners, and freedmen. I especially enjoyed reading about statesmen such as Thaddeus Stevens, as well as other men,... See more
As usual, Eric Foner explains the Reconstruction Era in great detail with excellent descriptions of events, laws, and responses of politicians, southern landowners, and freedmen. I especially enjoyed reading about statesmen such as Thaddeus Stevens, as well as other men, who really tried to create pathways to reconstruction.
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An essential book
Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2020
This should be required reading for everyone. This is crucial reading for anyone doing justice, community development, or anti-racism work. Or even just someone who’s trying to explain systemic racism to their family members. Highly recommend.
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TarheelTim
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Must Read!
Reviewed in the United States on July 25, 2015
Provides a crucial point of view on an often misrepresented segment of this country''s history. To understand what occurred before during and after Reconstruction, is to gain a better understanding of the racial unrest this country is currently facing.
3 people found this helpful
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Michael Kolb, S.J.
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Required Reading
Reviewed in the United States on February 10, 2020
This book provides a comprehensive but very approachable recounting of the Reconstruction Era, and challenges the silent compromises we have made as a nation since the failure or those possibilities.
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Arnie Tracey
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Superb.
Reviewed in the United States on February 6, 2011
This accessible overview is so well done, you have to read it to appreciate it.

Mr. Foner has done America a major service in "Forever Free."

Read it!
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Top reviews from other countries

Lesley
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
riveting reading: equality of opportunity and the vote still elusive and vulnerable
Reviewed in Australia on September 2, 2014
This terrific if often harrowing book sets out the long road to freedom of opportunity and respect. The right and the opportunity to vote has been hard to achieve and in my understanding of the Right in the US today, is under attack again. Still I have to hope and believe...See more
This terrific if often harrowing book sets out the long road to freedom of opportunity and respect. The right and the opportunity to vote has been hard to achieve and in my understanding of the Right in the US today, is under attack again. Still I have to hope and believe that right, not The Right, will triumph in the end.
This terrific if often harrowing book sets out the long road to freedom of opportunity and respect. The right and the opportunity to vote has been hard to achieve and in my understanding of the Right in the US today, is under attack again. Still I have to hope and believe that right, not The Right, will triumph in the end.
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MCCL
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
très intéressant
Reviewed in France on December 12, 2009
Très intéressant et pas du tout ennuyeux, parfait pour ceux qui préparent l''agrégation d''anglais. Cela se lit aussi facilement qu''un roman. Il y a de nombreuses illustrations.
Très intéressant et pas du tout ennuyeux, parfait pour ceux qui préparent l''agrégation d''anglais. Cela se lit aussi facilement qu''un roman.
Il y a de nombreuses illustrations.
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iskra
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Forever free and MORE!!
Reviewed in Japan on March 3, 2016
As many US customers correctly say, this is a very informative book by which you can understand easily how black people there suffered and emancipated themselves. The history is narrated chronologically and lots of interesting episodes are inserted in places. Highly...See more
As many US customers correctly say, this is a very informative book by which you can understand easily how black people there suffered and emancipated themselves. The history is narrated chronologically and lots of interesting episodes are inserted in places. Highly recommendable but there are some points you should pay attention to. 1. Letters are so small that you may have trouble when reading especially you are over fifty and suffering presbyopia. 2. There are many pictures printed which are good for readers’ easy and proper understanding of the events but they may seem sort of childish for adults. 3. If you are well-read about black people’s history in the US, you might feel the importance of the amendments to the Constitution has not been analyzed thoroughly. From a different perspective, these things above can be good points at the same time, needless to say, so please don’t hesitate to take this.
As many US customers correctly say, this is a very informative book by which you can understand easily how black people there suffered and emancipated themselves. The history is narrated chronologically and lots of interesting episodes are inserted in places.
Highly recommendable but there are some points you should pay attention to.
1. Letters are so small that you may have trouble when reading especially you are over fifty and suffering presbyopia.
2. There are many pictures printed which are good for readers’ easy and proper understanding of the events but they may seem sort of childish for adults.
3. If you are well-read about black people’s history in the US, you might feel the importance of the amendments to the Constitution has not been analyzed thoroughly.
From a different perspective, these things above can be good points at the same time, needless to say, so please don’t hesitate to take this.
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