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An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C. [Hardcover]

Kate Masur
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 4, 2010 0807834149 978-0807834145 1
An Example for All the Land reveals Washington, D.C. as a laboratory for social policy in the era of emancipation and the Civil War. In this panoramic study, Kate Masur provides a nuanced account of African Americans' grassroots activism, municipal politics, and the U.S. Congress. She tells the provocative story of how black men's right to vote transformed local affairs, and how, in short order, city reformers made that right virtually meaningless. Bringing the question of equality to the forefront of Reconstruction scholarship, this widely praised study explores how concerns about public and private space, civilization, and dependency informed the period's debate over rights and citizenship.

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An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C. + Terror in the Heart of Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the Postemancipation South (Gender and American Culture)
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Editorial Reviews


"Masur's elegant, nuanced study . . . is both a superb social and political history of the nation's capital during this crucial period and a significant contribution to the scholarship of race and Reconstruction. . . . Rich, well-researched, and well-conceived. . . . A sophisticated and fascinating treatment deserving of a wide audience. Highly recommended."--Choice

"Kate Masur's original and widely ramifying study of post-emancipation struggles over equality in Washington, D.C. . . . [is] powerful indeed."--American Historical Review

"[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

"In all, Masur sets a new standard in Reconstruction historiography. In a stunning achievement, she has unearthed a lost democratic legacy that was previously unknown--and presented it poignantly and provocatively."--Journal of American 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

"[An] excellent book"--Washington History

"[Masur's] book highlights how the District's direct relationship with a Republican-dominated Congress can help us assess the intentions and the limits of the GOP's commitment to racial equality."--Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians

"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

"A study worthy of the subject. Deeply researched and compellingly argued, Masur's book provides new insight. "--Journal of the Civil War Era

"I highly recommend this book because Masur provides us a wonderfully well-documented and fascinating history of [Washington D.C.] with lessons for today….An important book….[and] a rewarding one that will hopefully evoke public debate and inspire new ideas for the future."--Susie's Budget and Policy Corner blog

Book Description

"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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (October 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807834149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807834145
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #726,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Washington D.C. in the Reconstruction Era October 30, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Among the many studies of Reconstruction, surprisingly few focus on its history in Washington, D.C. I was drawn to this new book, "An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C." (2010) because it offered a combination of national history with the local history of Washington D.C. on a subject which continues to fascinate me. The author, Kate Masur, is Assistant Professor of history and African American Studies at Northwestern University. Dr Masur received her PhD from the University of Michigan in 2001. This is her first book.

Within the United States, Washington, D.C. is unique because under the Constitution Congress has plenary power for its governance. There are no complicating issues of states rights and Federalism. During the Civil War and Reconstruction, Congress used Washington, D.C. as a laboratory for experiements with democracy and racial equality. The title of Masur's book dervives from a statment by Senator Charles Sumner that Washington, D.C. was "an example for all the land." While many studies of Reconstruction focus on freedom as the most important concept, Masur concentrates on the difficult concept of equality in tracing the course of Reconstruction.

Understanding the course of Reconstruction in Washington, D.C. requires knowing how Congress had provided for its governance. In fact, there were three local governments at the time of the Civil War: Washington, D.C. Georgetown, and Washington County. Congress had granted by charter elective self-government to D.C. and Georgetown while providing an appointed body, the Levy Court, For Washington County. The three jurisdictions were not consolidated until 1871, but that is getting ahead of the story.

Masur's history basically has two parts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story well-told March 26, 2011
Prof. Masur does a wonderful job of telling this extraordinary story of emancipation and Reconstruction in D.C. Even though it's our nation's capital, DC often gets overlooked by historians. There are plenty of books about what happens in federal DC -- Congress, the White House, etc. -- but few books that examine the DC that natives live in. This book explores a tumultuous period in both DC and American History and shows how DC was a template for Reconstruction, in both its exciting, hopeful achievements (suffrage for black men, establishment of black schools, etc.) and its inglorious retreat from those very accomplishments. The book is readable and generally devoid of the jargon that plagues many academic works. Well done!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tarnished VIew of the Shining City on the Hill January 10, 2012
It is a gratifying when an author delivers not only the book you expect, but goes on to give the reader even more. Having heard Kate Masur discuss her book at the Library of Congress, I was sure that "An Example for All the Land" would be an interesting read. If you are a student of the history of Washington, D.C. and its governance, and especially interested in the history of the struggle for racial (and eventually gender) equality in our capitol city, you must read this book.

Professor Masur focuses on the Civil War and post war changes in Washington, D.C. - its changing governance, and the role its African-American population played in these changes, especially during the period of reconstruction after the Civil War. The effects of that conflict upon America's capital city were numerous and significant. The city's population changed as former slaves became freedmen and residents of the District of Columbia, and the war brought men and women from across the country to serve in or otherwise support (or hinder) the North's war effort.

In addition, the revolutionary changes in the nation brought about by the war and the final Northern victory altered expectations for political and social change and eventual expressions of impatience and frustration with these changes on all sides. As Professor Masur makes clear, this political evolution from civil war, to Radical Republican domination, to post-war ennui and fatigue pretty much defined the political, social, and even economic life of Washington, D.C. for at least the following century.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A side of history rarely covered July 26, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have read a lot of books on the Civil War but rarely have I read any mention of detail on Washington DC. Masur brings that subject to life in an easy to read fascinating retelling of what was going on in our national capital. It may have been the capital of the Union but that does not mean it did not have its share of Confederate sympathizers. i hope more historians will follow Masur's example and write more of the history of DC.
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