To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C. Hardcover – October 4, 2010
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
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
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
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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. The first part, from roughly 1862 -- 1871, discusses the rise of Reconstruction in Washington, D.C., including strong concepts of equality. During the Civil War, President Lincoln and others had tried to distinguish among legal, political, and social equality, an exercise which proved slippery, shifting and difficult. Congress abolished slavery in Washington, D.C. in 1862. The influx of many former slaves, or contrabands, into the city, combined with the free African Americans who called the city home, gave African Americans a considerable power base. They frequently advanced what Masur describes as "upstart claims" in which they got ahead of Congress in the types of equality they sought. Masur describes a politically active African American community in the capital city which took the lead in expanding equality.
Masur's book shows how the concept of equality played out differently in different contexts. After the abolition of slavery, Congress at first opted for a narrow concept of equality which involved removing discrimination from statutory law. Masur shows community activism leading to the expansion of equality in areas such as housing, education, police protection, public accomodations, transportation on streetcars and railroads, and public education. In these areas, African American activists, Masur argues, were ahead of Congress, which eventually followed their lead in enacting anti-discrimination measures. These efforts culminated in 1867 when Congress enacted legislation providing for the vote for all African American men. This enactment led to the election of a mayor and city council in Washington, D.C. which made substantial strides for racial equality and opportunity.
If Washington, D.C. was a proving ground for the early stages of Reconstruction, it also was a harbinger for Reconstruction's demise. This story is told in roughly the second part of Masur's book. She begins with an interesting discussion of how the feminist movement under Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony felt the need to distance themselves from suffrage for African American males. But most of her account concerns the retreat from the 1867 voting rights act in Washington, D.C., the rise of bossism, and the eventual loss of the franchise for African American and white voters alike.
The local government that followed upon the grant of the frahchise was regarded as fiscally irresponsible. In 1871, Congress consolidated the three jurisidctions of Washington, D.C., Georgetowwn, and Washington county into one jurisidiction. Congress then provided for an appointive government for the jurisdiction, with the exception of a lower legislative house, which continued to be elective. This change provided the basis for political cronysim under President Grant, who appointed a powerful financier to govern the city. In addition, it provided for the rise of Alexander "Boss" Shepherd, whom Grant had appointed as the head of the Board of Public Works. Shepherd ultimately became the most influential figure in the City. He modernized it substantially and allowed for its development but at the cost of great corruption. Shepherd became known as Washington D.C.'s equivalent of the notorious Tweed Ring of New York City. Shepherd liberally distributed local patronage to African Americans and others even though African Americans had no role in electing Shepherd.
In 1874, Congress took away the franchise in its entirety from D.C. residents. It provided instead for a Commission form of government with appointment by Congress. Thus African Americans, and other residents, were deprived of the right to vote which had been hard-won in 1867. This brought Reconstruction to an effective end in the capital city. Masur sees parallels between the end of Reconstruction in Washington, D.C. in 1871 and 1874 and the subsequent abandonment of Reconstruction in the South. Washington D.C. would not have home rule for 99 years until its restoration in 1973.
The history Masur relates is complex, and she might presuppose too much background knowledge in her readers. A chronology and perhaps an introductory chapter would have been welcome. As much as it is a history, Masur's book is a "meditation on the meanings of equality at a pivotal moment of American history." (p.7) Masur has many insightful things to say about changing concepts of equality, which makes her history all the more challenging to read and important. This book will appeal to readers with a strong interest in the Reconstruction Era, African American history, or the local history of Washington, D.C. It also requires readers wanting to engage with different historical understandings of the nature of equality and the development of this understanding with time. Masur has written a valuable book about a too little studied part of the Reconstruction Era.
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.
In seven chapters, the author recounts the events of the period from 1862 to 1874 when Congress took upon itself the government of the District from its inhabitants, putting an end to possible democratic majority self rule in a city with an increasing population of free African-Americans. The author's research makes it very clear that the growth of the freedmen population in Washington was an important factor in this evolution. The details offered in "An Example" reflect an impressive research effort, further demonstrated by almost 27 pages of sources that include numerous period newspapers and U.S. Government reports on the District of Columbia. The text is further supplement by some 40 pages of end-notes and supports it with 20 illustrations and four maps.