From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. With this densely textured history of Reconstruction, Pulitzer Prize–finalist Dray (At the Hands of Persons Unknown
) moves the first black congressmen—including Robert Brown Elliott, P.B.S. Pinchback and Hiram Revels—from the margins of American history and places their careers in an integrated context that includes not only the challenging world in which they lived [but] the stories of the men and women of both races whose actions affected their role. Particularly illuminating on local political history, Dray is equally attentive to broader issues (e.g., the rift between women's rights advocates and civil rights activists). Events frequently treated as separate African-American issues (e.g., the collapse of the Freedman's Bank, the legal entrenchment of separate but equal) are examined in the fuller milieu of contemporary history. The author asserts, [I]t is difficult to imagine another period in America's past as complex as Reconstruction, or one that has been more controversial in the telling. Dray's triumph is to have crafted a lucid and balanced narrative, thoroughly researched and well-documented to satisfy the scholarly, while consistently fascinating and fully accessible for the casual reader. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dray devotes the majority of his pages to a significant minority: some of the first African Americans ever to serve in Congress. A few, such as Robert Smalls and Blanche K. Bruce, have been the subject of recent, thorough biographies. Others, such as Robert Brown Elliott and John Roy Lynch, emerge here as fascinating figures deserving full-length studies.” The Washington Post
Dray casts fresh light on the positive aspects of Reconstruction and powerfully dramatizes its negative side. His well-researched book is both exhilarating and disturbing.” The New York Times Book Review
Pulitzer finalist Philip Dray's Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen is a history of an often overlooked chapter. The stories of men like Hiram Revels of Mississippi, the first black senator, are all the more powerful from some 140 years before Barack Obama began his presidential quest.” The Washingtonian