March 2024 (Vol. 14, No. 1)

March 2024 (Vol. 14, No. 1)

Volume 14, Number 1
March 2024


Kate Masur and Gregory Downs

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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 US 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.

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Michael W. Fitzgerald, Mark Bohnhorst

Reconstruction, Racial Terror, and the Electoral College

The threat of “fake electors” and that legislatures would choose presidential winners are important in the Trump era. The question of how electors are chosen dates back to the Founding era, but the Electoral College achieved new salience during Reconstruction, 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 coalition of congressmen tried to ensure that voters, not state legislatures, would choose presidential electors. The idea was broadly popular. In 1869 the Senate passed a “Sixteenth Amendment” mandating popular elections, but conflict between the two chambers over the Fifteenth Amendment killed it. Despite that outcome, the outcry against legislative selection had enduring consequences. The issue had been settled in the public mind; few ventured to raise it again until the twenty-first century.

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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.

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Christopher James Bonner

Possessed: Understanding the Lives of Enslaved Americans

Enslaved people in the US 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.

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