June 2023 (vol. 13, no. 2)

June 2023 (vol. 13, no. 2)

Volume 13, Number 2
June 2023

Editors’ Note
Kate Masur and Gregory Downs

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Sebastian N. Page

Time and Place, Time and Chance

This essay is the acceptance speech for the Tom Watson Brown Book Award, conferred on the best book published on the Civil War era in 2021. Tad Brown, president of the Watson-Brown Foundation, awarded the prize to Sebastian N. Page for Black Resettlement and the American Civil War, published by Cambridge University Press. Page delivered his speech during the Southern Historical Association’s annual meeting on November 11, 2022, in Baltimore, Maryland. The Society of Civil War Historians judges and administers the book prize.

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Hilary N. Green and Adam H. Domby

Studying Slavery on Campus: Research, Reconciliation, and Public Engagement

Since the early 2000s, an increasing number of colleges and universities have begun the difficult work of examining how their institutional histories are tied to the systems of slavery, the slave trade, settler colonialism, and segregation. As more schools continue to embark on the soul-searching process of researching the darker side of their institutional pasts, this JCWE roundtable brings together eight scholars who have engaged in the hard work of research and reconciliation to discuss how they have approached the topic of slavery on campus. The discussion includes how to start a slavery on campus project, the challenges faced, and strategies for publicizing the findings. Domby and Green hope the robust discussion will help other scholars begin similar projects around the country.

Keywords: institutional histories, slavery on campus, reconciliation

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John W. Quist

Theodore Foster: A Liberty Party Abolitionist Confronts the Civil War and Emancipation

Many writers of antislavery and abolitionism have viewed their subjects through the lens of progress.  Theodore Foster’s trajectory calls that schema into question. Active in abolitionism’s origins in Michigan, Foster served as a Liberty Party editor for the Ann Arbor Signal of Liberty during the 1840s.  There, he created an extensive literary record that condemned slavery and championed African American rights. Almost sixteen years after leaving the Signal, Foster began editing the Lansing State Republican in 1863.  Numbering among the radicals in the Republican Party, Foster remained committed to ending slavery.  By the Civil War, though, Foster had developed an antipathy towards abolitionists.  Further, Foster now used racist language that never appeared in the Signal of Liberty, openly accepted Black inferiority, and doubted whether emancipated people stood prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship.  This evolution in Foster’s thinking should cause us to reexamine white abolitionists’ long-term commitments to racial equality, to reevaluate the distinctions between abolitionism and the Republican Party’s antislavery message, and to recognize that abolitionists could be more easily transformed than the society they hoped to change.

Keywords: Theodore Foster, Liberty Party, abolition, abolitionism, antislavery, Republican Party, African American suffrage, African American citizenship

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Frank Towers

Rediscovering Reconstruction in the Urban South: Achievements and New Opportunities

In the decades following Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: An Unfinished Revolution, which synthesized revisions to the Lost Cause narrative of Dunning school, scholars have expanded the scope of Reconstruction studies and debated its emancipatory potential. Among these new avenues of inquiry, Southern cities have undergone a quiet renaissance as settings for studying the period’s larger themes, particularly the South’s economic recovery and the African American struggle for freedom and equality. However, these achievements have come without close engagement with the work of urbanists who theorize the city as autonomous force in human history. By making cities subjects, as opposed to settings, historians can gain new insights into how the process of Reconstruction unfolded in the postwar South. This essay begins by exploring the different worlds of urban and Civil War era historiography. It then considers how historians of Reconstruction have studied cities and how they can move the field forward by considering the city as an agent of change.

Keywords: Reconstruction, urban South, Lost Cause, Dunning School

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