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Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First BlackCongressmen Hardcover – September 16, 2008
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“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
Top Customer Reviews
Paul Lawrence Dunbar once observed that "some men are born great, others have greatness thrust upon them and others lived through the Reconstruction." (He might have added the so-called Redeemer period as well when whites disenfranchised African American citizens as well). What this book demonstrates is the exceptional nature of all of the men who represented their constituencies in the South after the Civil War until they were denied representation for nearly 80 years.
This book chronicles many exceptional individuals, but perhaps my favorite is Robert Smalls. Again and again I kept asking "why have I not heard of him before?" Smalls was a war hero, who delivered the steamboat "Planter" to Union hands. Smalls managed to desegregate Philadelphia street car lines and served many years, until he was gerrymandered out of congress by whites who refused to permit African Americans the right to vote, no matter how many ways it took to undermine the law, constitution, and fundamental documents like the Declaration of Independence.
Just as there are heroic seekers after freedom like Smalls, Blanche K. Bruce, Robert Brown Elliot, P.B.S. Pinchback, Hiram Revels, Alonzo Ransier, John Roy Lynch, there are also villain who people this remarkable book.Read more ›
This book goes in to great detail about the men that made Reconstruction in major states such as Mississippi, and South Carolina, and Louisiana, where Blacks were in the majority of the population. Think the Civil Rights movement started with Rosa Parks and Dr. King? As early as the 1870s, Robert Elliott and Rev. Richard "Daddy" Cain were fighting for equal accomodation. Learn of the nation's First Black Governor-Pinckney Pinchback-who served in Louisiana in 1873! We all know of a certain Black Senator who electrified the nation with an amazing speech on race relations and national unity, right? Guess what-Hiram Revels of Mississippi did this over 130 years before a certain presidential candidtate of Kenyan and Kansan heritage.
The book is filled with excellent detail as Philip Dray has painstakingly gone through newspapers, perosnla papers, and testimonies of that era in a readable and enjoyable fashion.
Books like this are why I've always said that libraries and bookstores are the best sources for information outside of the school houses. Learn and enjoy!
I got Capitol Men because, with the ascendancy of Barrack Obama to the Presidency, I thought a look at the lives of the first generation of African American would be appropriate and interesting. What I got, though, was not so much that as a look at Reconstruction and its aftermath in the form of the so-called "Redemption". Don't get me wrong, many black political figures are in there from Robert Smalls, "Big Daddy" Richard Cain, Blanche Bruce, John Roy Lynch, and many more. But some are barely discussed. Hiram Revels comes to mind. And, there is very little information as to how their lives in Washington was conducted, how they participated in the legislative process, and the lives they experienced there.
What is contained in the book is not an insider's look at Nineteenth Century Washington, but a deep and introspective look at the reaction of Southern White society to evolving roles for black Americans, the North's flagging committment to the requirements of emancipation, and the reaction of Black leaders to "facts on the ground." This is not an uplifting tale. If you are not touched by the unending suffering and this dark stain on this nation's history, you are not really comprehending the epic tale that Phillip Dray is relaying.
Well written and well explained, this book is a real page-turner of an epic struggle that is, in many ways, still unresolved. Dray moves seemlessly through explanations of legal cases, such as the Slaughterhouse cases, Cruikshank, and Plessy v.Read more ›
Some were consummate politicians in the best sense of the word. They were men of brilliance, perseverance, and courage. They succeeded against all odds and serve as a great beacon of what can be done despite fierce racial prejudice.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
So much about the Reconstruction era has been glossed over or forgotten. This is an important book, one that's a critical work to help correct some misconceptions about the era as... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kartik Krishnaiyer
When Senator Brook from Massachussetts died, news reporters called him the first "popularly-elected" black senator. Why describe him that way? Read morePublished 8 months ago by Alice C. Robbins
This book offered a very detailed and an amazing account of the late 1800's of the Reconstruction Era and the events that preceded it. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Alice Giraud
ONE OF THE BEST RESEARCH EFFORTS OF AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THAT PERIOD OF AMERICAN HISTORY WHO EXCELLED IN THE FIELD OF POLITICS AGAINST ALL ODDS. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Larry Derain Hicks
A well written book that captures many of the key developments of the reconstruction period. Since it is told through the lives of key figures, it does not tell the whole story,... Read morePublished on March 19, 2014 by Leslie Van Dyk
I was impressed with the excellent description of these brave men & women. If only everyone understood our history. Read morePublished on March 16, 2014 by Sally Moore