Preview the Contents for March 2024

Preview the Contents for March 2024

Volume 14, Number 1
December 2023

EDITORS’ NOTE

Kate Masur and Gregory Downs

ARTICLES
Iain A. Flood

Proving Disloyalty: Enslaved People and Resistance in Missouri’s Guerrilla Households

This work highlights the central role that enslaved people played in Missouri’s guerrilla conflict. During the Civil War, with the loss of male labor to armies and guerrilla bands, households in Missouri became ever more reliant on enslaved labor. This included guerrilla households, meaning that enslaved people played a much more active role in maintaining guerrilla bands than has been previously acknowledged. By aiding guerrillas’ domestic supply lines, enslaved people gained information that could prove their enslaver’s disloyalty. Aware that such information could be exchanged with U.S. officers in return for freedom papers, enslaved people across Missouri seized the opportunity to escape. In effect, their actions created a second supply line, one that moved information out of Missouri’s slaveholding households and onto the desks of provost marshals. Enslaved people made the domestic supply line a tool of resistance and redefined the relationship between the army and Black refugees in Missouri.

Keywords: Guerrilla Warfare; Emancipation; Enslaved Resistance; Missouri; Refugees; Household Warfare

Michael W. Fitzgerald and Mark Bohnhorst

Reconstruction, Racial Terror, and the Electoral College

The threat of “fake electors” and legislative choice of presidential winners are important in the Trump era.  The issue dates back to the Founding Fathers and the Jacksonian eras.  But during Reconstruction, the electoral college achieved salience when Florida’s Republican legislature called off its presidential vote in 1868.  Klan terrorism against African-Americans prompted that measure, and when Alabama’s legislature followed suit, it provoked a national backlash.  After U. S. Grant’s election, a diverse alliance of Congressmen tried to outlaw the practice without encountering articulate opposition.  A “Sixteenth Amendment” passed the Senate mandating popular elections, but conflict between the two chambers over the Fifteenth Amendment killed it.  Despite that outcome, the lopsided public debate had enduring consequences.  It undermined all legitimacy for legislative determination for a hundred plus years.    Examining that bi-partisan consensus for democratic voting rights, despite the era’s political bitterness, highlights how settled the issue was before 2020.

Keywords: Electoral College, African-Americans, Reconstruction, Constitutional Amendment, President, Alabama,  Florida, Ku Klux Klan

Katherine J. Lennard

Brother Dixon: College Fraternities and the Ku Klux Klan

This essay argues that novelist Thomas Dixon, Jr’s portrait of the Reconstruction Klan was heavily influenced by college fraternities, particularly the Kappa Alpha Order. Founded by Confederate veterans in 1865, Kappa Alpha fused ritualistic fraternalism with the myth of the Lost Cause. Dixon’s continued involvement with the Kappa Alpha Order, long after his college days, provided philosophical and aesthetic inspiration for his portrait of vigilante terrorists as white-robed Christian Knights. In his trilogy of Reconstruction novels—The Leopard’s Spots (1902), The Clansman (1905), and The Traitor (1907)—Dixon seamlessly assimilated the iconography and culture of white college fraternities, thereby underscoring the power of these organizations as repositories for white supremacy and Confederate memory in the wake of the Civil War.

Keywords: Lost Cause, Iconography, White Supremacy, Confederate Memory, Fraternalism, College Fraternities, Ku Klux Klan

REVIEW ESSAY
Christopher James Bonner

Possessed: Understanding the Lives of Enslaved Americans

Enslaved people in the U.S. South lived in a system designed to exploit their labor in pursuit of profit. This historiographical essay considers key questions about labor and power raised in the previous two decades of scholarship on antebellum slavery. What were the forms and meanings of enslaved people’s politics, and how can we track them through the archive?  How was slavery connected to larger phenomena including empire and capitalism in the early United States? In pursuing these questions, scholars have illuminated the history of slavery at different scales, ranging from the lived experiences of bound workers to transatlantic networks of commerce and credit through which the products of enslaved labor moved. This essay considers some of the different ways recent historians have worked to understand the institution of slavery, with a particular focus on the question of how closely their approaches bring us to understanding the shape of enslaved humanity.

Keywords: slavery, historiography, politics, resistance, capitalism, labor

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NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS