Synopses & Reviews
In An Example for All the Land
, Kate Masur offers the first major study of Washington during Reconstruction in over fifty years. Masur's panoramic account considers grassroots struggles, city politics, Congress, and the presidency, revealing the District of Columbia as a unique battleground in the American struggle over equality.
After slavery's demise, the question of racial equality produced a multifaceted debate about who should have which rights and privileges, and in which places. Masur shows that black Washingtonians demanded public respect for their organizations and equal access to streetcars, public schools, the vote, and municipal employment. Congressional Republicans, in turn, passed local legislation that made the capital the nation's vanguard of racial equality, drawing the attention of woman suffragists hoping for similar experiments in women's rights. But a conservative coalition soon mobilized and, in the name of reform and modernization, sought to undermine African Americans' newfound influence in local affairs. In a stunning reversal, Congress then abolished local self-government, making the capital an exemplar of disfranchisement amid a national debate about the dangers of democracy.
Combining political, social, and legal history, Masur reveals Washington as a laboratory for social policy at a pivotal moment in American history and brings the question of equality to the forefront of Reconstruction scholarship.
"Kate Masur takes us to a distinctive place where the local and national struggles of Reconstruction coincided, and where the promises and limits of change--and the new meanings of equality--foreshadowed political dynamics on the many stages of late nineteenth-century America. An Example for All the Land
is, for us, an example of freshly conceived and very thoughtful historical writing."--Steven Hahn, University of Pennsylvania
"This is a model study, integrating social and political history, on an important but under-examined topic. Masur skillfully explores the implications of race and development politics in Washington, D.C., drawing a clear connection with the broader fate of Reconstruction and the public perception of urban corruption. I'm astonished that no one has tackled these issues before, and I'm pleased that Masur has done so this well."--Michael W. Fitzgerald, St. Olaf College
"Until now, Washington, D.C. has been considered anomalous and marginal in the history of Reconstruction. But Kate Masur's study of the turbulent, and ultimately tragic, struggle to define and expand equal rights in the District will change that perception dramatically. This is an important and intriguing contribution to the scholarship on Emancipation and Reconstruction."--Michael Perman, author of Pursuit of Unity: A Political History of the American South
"An Example for all the Land
, clearly argued and deeply researched, represents a significant breakthrough in the crowded field of Reconstruction scholarship. Showing how Washington, D.C. became a laboratory for political experimentation, Masur reveals important new facets to the process of emancipation, the fight for racial justice, and the reconstruction of democracy for all Americans."--Laura F. Edwards, author of The People and Their Peace: Legal Culture and the Transformation of Inequality in the Post-Revolutionary South
"The constriction of citizenship rights in the nation's capital is a story little told but rich with both symbolic and practical meaning. Masur's intriguing history of Reconstruction in the District is justified and fruitful."--Jane Dailey, University of Chicago
"[A] deeply researched, beautifully written narrative. . . . A must-read book, not only for those interested in the emancipation and Reconstruction but for anyone interested in the long, complicated, and contentious story of equality in the United States."
-Civil War History
"A solid foundation for a comparative assessment of urban-based emancipation politics. . . . [This book] illuminates how Washington, D.C., provided important precedents for both expansive and limited views of emancipation and the rights of black people."
-Journal of Southern History
"Masur positions her work at the intersection of political and social history. . . [and] carefully reconstructs the interplay between national and local forces, between the general and the specific. . . . A compelling work that will serve as a model for similar studies for years to come."
-Journal of American Ethnic History
Masur offers the first major study of Washington during Reconstruction in over fifty years. Masur's panoramic account considers grassroots struggles, city politics, Congress, and the presidency, revealing the District of Columbia as a unique battleground in the American struggle over equality.
About the Author
Kate Masur is assistant professor of history and African American studies at Northwestern University.