Synopses & Reviews
During Reconstruction, former abolitionists in the North had a golden opportunity to pursue true racial justice and permanent reform in America. But why, after the sacrifice made by thousands of Civil War patriots to arrive at this juncture, did the moment slip away, leaving many whites throughout the North and South more racist than before? Edward J. Blum takes a fresh look at this question, focusing on the vital role that religion played in reunifying northern, and southern whites into a racially segregated society. He tells the fascinating story of how northern Protestantism, once the catalyst for racial egalitarianism, promoted the image of a white republic that conflated whiteness, godliness, and nationalism. Blum explores a wide array of venues and media to document how figures from-Harriet Beecher Stowe to Frederick Douglass either supported or tried to resist the retreat from Reconstruction. Magazines, personal diaries, sermons, hymns, travelogues, Supreme Court opinions, and political caricatures illustrate religious ideologies at play in virtually every aspects of the larger culture. The myth of the white republic helped mend the North-South rift while lending moral purpose to the government's imperialist ambitions, and by 1900 the United States felt divinely sanctioned in subjugating peoples of color at home and abroad. A blend of history and social science, Reforging the White Republic offers a surprising perspective on the forces of religion as well as nationalism and imperialism at a critical point in American history.