Synopses & Reviews
From one of our most distinguished historians, a new examination of the vitally important years of Emancipation and Reconstruction during and immediately following the Civil War a necessary reconsideration that emphasizes the era's political and cultural meaning for today's America.
In Forever Free, Eric Foner overturns numerous assumptions growing out of the traditional understanding of the period, which is based almost exclusively on white sources and shaped by (often unconscious) racism. He presents the period as a time of determination, especially on the part of recently emancipated black Americans, to put into effect the principles of equal rights and citizenship for all.
Drawing on a wide range of long-neglected documents, he places a new emphasis on the centrality of the black experience to an understanding of the era. We see African Americans as active agents in overthrowing slavery, in helping win the Civil War, and even more actively in shaping Reconstruction and creating a legacy long obscured and misunderstood. Foner makes clear how, by war's end, freed slaves in the South built on networks of church and family in order to exercise their right of suffrage as well as gain access to education, land, and employment.
He shows us that the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and renewed acts of racial violence were retaliation for the progress made by blacks soon after the war. He refutes lingering misconceptions about Reconstruction, including the attribution of its ills to corrupt African American politicians and "carpetbaggers," and connects it to the movements for civil rights and racial justice.
Joshua Brown's illustrated commentary on the era's graphic art and photographs complements the narrative. He offers a unique portrait of how Americans envisioned their world and time.
Forever Free is an essential contribution to our understanding of the events that fundamentally reshaped American life after the Civil War a persuasive reading of history that transforms our sense of the era from a time of failure and despair to a threshold of hope and achievement.
"Probably no period in American history is as controversial, as distorted by myth and as 'essentially unknown' as the era of emancipation and Reconstruction, award-winning historian Foner (The Story of American Freedom; Reconstruction; etc.) argues in this dense, rectifying but highly readable account. His analysis of 'that turbulent era, its successes and failures, and its long-term consequences up until this very day' addresses the debates among historians, corrects the misrepresentations and separates myth from fact with persuasive data. Foner opens his work with an overview of slavery and the Civil War and concludes with a consideration of the Civil Rights movement and the continuing impact of Reconstruction upon the current political scene, a framework that adds to the clarity of his history of that era, its aftermath and its legacy. Joshua Brown's six interspersed 'visual essays,' with his fresh commentary on images from slavery through Reconstruction to Jim Crow, buttress Foner's text and contribute to its accessibility. In his mission to illuminate Reconstruction's critical repercussions for contemporary American culture, Foner balances his passion for racial equality and social justice with disciplined scholarship. His book is a valuable, fluid introduction to a complex period. 139 illus. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] more accessible, though equally distinguished, treatment of the material covered in Foner's Reconstruction. It draws on his earlier work and also on more recent scholarship to...correct common misconceptions about the period (18651877)." School Library Journal
"Forever Free will not supersede Reconstruction....His new book is aimed at readers basically unfamiliar with American history....Forever Free is a good book: passionate, lucid, concise without being light." James Goodman, The New York Times Book Review
Refuting lingering misconceptions about the Reconstruction period, an award-winning author explores the events that fundamentally reshaped American life after the Civil War. High school and older.
About the Author
Eric Foner, a winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize, is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His books include The Story of American Freedom and Politics
and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War
. He lives in New York City.
Joshua Brown is the executive director of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His books include Beyond the Lines: Pictorial Reporting, Everyday Life, and the Crisis of Gilded Age America. He lives in New York City.
This book is the first effort of the Los Angeles-based Forever Free Project, an ongoing collaboration among film and television producers and writers and our most distinguished historians and scholars. The Forever Free Project is preparing a film on Emancipation and Reconstruction.