December 2020 (vol. 10, no. 4)

December 2020 (vol. 10, no. 4)

Volume 10, Number 4

December 2020

Editors’ Note
Kate Masur and Gregory P. Downs

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Robert Colby

“Negroes Will Bear Fabulous Prices”: The Economics of Wartime Slave Commerce and Visions of the Confederate Future 

Studies of the United States’ domestic slave trade generally assume that slave commerce rapidly collapsed during the Civil War under pressure from a deteriorating Rebel economy and the threat of emancipation. In fact, Confederates conducted a robust trade in slaves throughout the conflict. The very crises that ought to have strangled the slave trade, moreover, often galvanized it. Enticed by the promise of a revived slave economy—and booming slave prices—at the war’s end, residents of the Confederate States of America considered slaves an enticing speculation. In the meantime, enslaved property helped Rebels hedge against wartime inflation, even as transactions in slaves embodied their confidence in the Confederate experiment. The wartime slave trade, then, offered supremely confident Confederates a chance to invest in the slaveholding future they fought to secure while also shielding themselves through the enslaved from the economic consequences of the slaveholders’ rebellion. 

Keywords: slavery, slave trade, Civil War, economy, Confederate States of America, inflation, slave prices 

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Frank Campbell Scribner

Surveying the Destruction of African American Schoolhouses in the South, 1864-1876 

The following essay surveys the destruction of 631 African American schools during the Reconstruction era. Drawing from newspaper reports, Congressional testimony, and the archives of the Freedmen’s Bureau, it provides the most comprehensive account to date of violence against African American education in the postwar South. However, acknowledging that the total number of schools destroyed was probably far higher, the article also explores the forces that obscured evidence of attacks and precluded a more accurate count, particularly a lack of systematic attention to the issue in Freedmen’s Bureau reports and the political machinations of Congressional Democrats. To download a database of destroyed schools compiled during the research for this project, click the link below.

Scribner – Destroyed Schoolhouses Database

Keywords: Reconstruction, Education, Schools, African American, Freedmen’s Bureau, Ku Klux Klan, Violence 

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Stephen West

Remembering Reconstruction in Its Twilight:  Ulysses S. Grant and James G. Blaine on the Origins of Black Suffrage

This essay challenges scholarship on Americans’ memory of the Civil War era by examining reminiscences of Reconstruction by Ulysses S. Grant and James G. Blaine published after 1876. Study of the memory of Reconstruction has lagged that of Civil War memory and focused largely on the twentieth century’s “tragic era” view. This essay looks instead to Reconstruction’s twilight, when the Republican party had retreated from but not abandoned its democratic promise. Grant and Blaine questioned black men’s enfranchisement but were most critical of ex-Confederates, whose post-war violence pushed Republicans to embrace black suffrage, and whose assault on voting rights continued after 1876. While historians have debated Civil War memory’s reconciliationist and emancipationist strains, Blaine and Grant demonstrated a paramount concern with problems of national political power. They connected Gilded Age politics to the memory of Reconstruction and to antebellum worries about the South’s anti-democratic influence in American life. 

Keywords: Ulysses, S. Grant, James G. Blaine, black suffrage, Civil War memory, Reconstruction 

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Christopher Morris

With “The Economics-of-Slavery Culture Wars,” It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again 

This essay compares recent studies of slavery and capitalism, their critical reception, and the social, cultural, and political context of their appearance in the early 2010s with the appearance and reception of similar studies in the 1970s. The recent histories largely ignored the earlier era, critics rightly pointed out. However, critics overlooked or misunderstood much that was new in the recent studies. In particular, critics trained as economists and working in economics departments seemed unaware of how historical research and writing had changed since the 1970s, largely because of postmodern interventions since then. In the 1970s, the use of computerized research and statistics, pioneered by trained economists, was highly controversial among traditional historians. Similarly, the use of language, narrative, and “facts” by recent historians is controversial, particularly among traditional economists and economic historians.  

Keywords: slavery, capitalism, Fogel, Genovese, Baptist, Johnson

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