The Redeemers’ (southern Democrats) who eventually overthrew the abolitionists’ corrupt movement, were heroes who saved the southern way of life and white culture. Fonder articulated this viewpoint as such, ‘Vindictive Radical Republicans fastened black supremacy upon the defeated South, unleashing an orgy of corruption presided over by unscrupulous carpetbaggers, traitorous scalawags, and ignorant freedmen. “2 The next school of thought presented came into being during the 1 sass during the civil rights movements at a time when the US was experiencing a fundamental shift in race relations.As a white dominated society began to shift towards equality and seek and end to segregated and racist policy this ‘revisionist’ view of Reconstruction emerged as what seems to be a polar opposite to the traditional view. Fonder, quantifying this viewpoint wrote, “President Johnson [a southern Democrat] was now portrayed as a stubborn, racist politician, whereas his abolitionist and Radical opponents, acquitted of vindictive motives, emerged as idealists in the best nineteenth-century reform tradition.
3 These two schools of thought are the antithesis of each other and, or lack of a better term, paint a very ‘black and white’ picture of black and white relations in post-Civil War America.
To believe one school of thought is to refute the other and as historians began to dig deeper into the issue, and to develop definitive arguments for the shape and scope of Reconstruction, they realized that when painting in ‘black and white’, you only succeed in creating many shades of gray.Fonder spends the bulk of the essay discussing the ‘shades of gray that would developed into the third viewpoint of Reconstruction- post revisionism. The post revisionist viewpoint tries not to e Reconstruction as either a failed attempt to destroy white culture in the South or as a utopian ideal that was thwarted by a racist agenda, but to look at the degrees to which each party involved, including southern Democrats, northern Radical Republicans, the freedmen, and everyone in between, contributed to Reconstructions successes and its failures.The examples for post revisionist ideas do well to portray the many complicated motives that were present at the time and paint a picture of a white society, across America, that was ultimately resistant to change and seeking some kind of nonentity or ‘normalcy’ that a suddenly free black population was hard pressed to allow. Goner does state, however, that this modern viewpoint on Reconstruction does have its flaws, just as the other two views on the time period have.He writes, “Yet, like their revisionist predecessors, the post revisionist writers have failed to produce a modern synthesis. The denial of change does not in itself provide a compelling interpretation of the turbulent era.
“4 Using the writings of traditionalists including Claude Bower, revisionists works of the likes of Joel Williamson, A A. Taylor and Charles Beard, and the more modern studies of Reconstruction done by the post revisionists C.Van Woodward, Eric McCormick and John & Lowland Cox, goner builds a compelling case for just how complex the Story Of Reconstruction really is. He does an excellent job of presenting the ideas put forth by the different schools of thought and the historical examples that refute the conclusions one can draw from each individual school. This article ends with an idea that to understand and paint a complete and accurate portrait of Reconstruction, one must not just view it thought the lens of black vs.. Tie, or the fight for equal political rights by blacks, or the struggle by the upper class of Southern society to maintain control in a post war world, or the seeking of land ownership by newly freed blacks.
One must instead sift through all these events and find the best way to describe these momentous times. The tapestry of Reconstruction Fonder tries to create from his examination of the period is this, “Reconstructions promise certainly exceeded its accomplishments. Yet so long as Reconstruction survived, so too did the possibility of further change…..
. Raised blacks’ expectations and aspirations, redefined their status in relation to the larger society, and allowed space for the creation of institutions that enabled them to survive the repression that followed. “5 By giving historical examples to back up ideas, as well as including many ideas from other historians, Boner’s article does an excellent job of creating a well-rounded and complex vision of Reconstruction than any one school of thought can provide. One glaring weakness of this piece, however, is that it does present these ideas as being very complex, but then skims over hem in a few short sentences or paragraphs.
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