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An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C. Hardcover – October 4, 2010

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


An example of the type of excellent scholarship that bridges the putative divide between elite decisions and popular struggles, while getting to the heart of thorny questions about equal rights during a tumultuous time our nation's history.--Journal of African American History

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

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

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

[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

[An] excellent book--Washington History

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

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

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

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


The constriction of citizenship rights in the nation's capital is a story little told but rich with both symbolic and practical meaning. Masur's intriguing history of Reconstruction in the District is justified and fruitful.--Jane Dailey, University of Chicago

An Example for all the Land, clearly argued and deeply researched, represents a significant breakthrough in the crowded field of Reconstruction scholarship. Showing how Washington, D.C. became a laboratory for political experimentation, Masur reveals important new facets to the process of emancipation, the fight for racial justice, and the reconstruction of democracy for all Americans.--Laura F. Edwards, author of The People and Their Peace: Legal Culture and the Transformation of Inequality in the Post-Revolutionary South

Until now, Washington, D.C. has been considered anomalous and marginal in the history of Reconstruction. But Kate Masur's study of the turbulent, and ultimately tragic, struggle to define and expand equal rights in the District will change that perception dramatically. This is an important and intriguing contribution to the scholarship on Emancipation and Reconstruction.--Michael Perman, author of Pursuit of Unity: A Political History of the American South

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

This is a model study, integrating social and political history, on an important but under-examined topic. Masur skillfully explores the implications of race and development politics in Washington, D.C., drawing a clear connection with the broader fate of Reconstruction and the public perception of urban corruption. I'm astonished that no one has tackled these issues before, and I'm pleased that Masur has done so this well.--Michael W. Fitzgerald, St. Olaf College


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition (US) First Printing 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
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,810,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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