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Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction

4.5 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0375402593
ISBN-10: 0375402594
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Timeline of Emancipation

In Forever Free, Eric Foner, the leading historian of America's Reconstruction era, reexamines one of the most misunderstood periods of American history: the struggle to overthrow slavery and establish freedom for African Americans in the years before, during, and after the Civil War. Forever Free is extensively illustrated, with visual essays by scholar Joshua Brown discussing the images of the period alongside Foner's text.

1787 The United States Constitution is ratified, containing several protections for slavery, including the Fugitive Slave Clause, three-fifths clause, and a cause prohibiting the abolition of the slave trade from Africa before 1808.
1829-31 Publication of Appeal ... to the Coloured Citizens of the World by David Walker and The Liberator, a weekly newspaper edited by William Lloyd Garrison, marks the emergence of a new, militant abolitionist movement.
Diagram of a slave ship from an 1808 report
1831 August 22 Nat Turner launches a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, resulting in the deaths of 55 whites persons before the uprising is crushed.
1846 August Congress adjourns after intense sectional debate over the Wilmot Proviso, a proposal to prohibit slavery in all territory acquired in the Mexican-American War.
1860 November 6 Election of Abraham Lincoln as president, representing the anti-slavery Republican Party
1861 February 4 Seven seceded southern states form the Confederate States of America
April 12 The Confederate attack on South Carolina's Fort Sumter begins the Civil War.
A woodcut published in an 1831 account of the Nat Turner uprising
May 24 Gen. Benjamin F. Butler declares fugitive slaves at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, "contraband of war," who will not be returned to their owners.
August 6 First Confiscation Act provides for the emancipation of slaves employed as laborers by the Confederate army.
1862 April 16 Congress abolishes slavery in the District of Columbia with compensation to loyal owners, and also appropriates funds for "colonization" of freed slaves outside the United States.
July 17 Second Confiscation Act frees slaves of disloyal owners.
September 22 Five days after the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln issues the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which warns the South that if the rebellion has not ended by January 1, he will emancipate the slaves. It also promises aid to states that adopt plans for gradual, compensated emancipation and refers to colonization of freed people outside the country.
1863 January 1 Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in areas under Confederate control. It exempts Tennessee and parts of Louisiana and Virginia and does not apply to the border states, and also authorizes the enlistment of black soldiers.
"Contrabands" in Cumberland Landing, Virginia, May 1862
July 30 Lincoln insists black Union soldiers captured by the Confederate army be treated as prisoners of war, not escaped slaves as Confederate president Jefferson Davis has threatened.
December 8 Lincoln issues the Proclamation of Amnesty of Reconstruction, offering a pardon and restoration of property (except slave property) to Confederates who take an oath of allegiance to the Union.
1864 September 5 New constitution of Louisiana abolishes slavery; new constitutions in Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee follow suit in the next six months.
November 8 Lincoln reelected as president.
January 16 Gen. William T. Sherman issues Special Field Order 15, setting aside land in coastal South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida for settlement by black families in 40-acre plots.
March 3 Congress orders emancipation of wives and children of black soldiers.
March 13 Confederate Congress authorizes enlistment of black soldiers.
April 11 In the last speech before his death, two days after Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox, Lincoln favors limited black suffrage in the South.
Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, at Fort Lincoln, Washington, DC
April 14 Assassination of Lincoln.
December 18 Ratification of the 13th Amendment irrevocably abolishes slavery throughout the United States.
1866 April 9 Over the veto of President Andrew Johnson, Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, establishing citizenship of black Americans and requiring that they be accorded equality before the law, principles later written into the Constitution in the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868.
John Wilkes Booth assassinates Lincoln, April 1865
1867 March 2 Congress passes the Reconstruction Act, again over President Johnson's veto, extending the right to vote to black men in the South and inaugurating the era of Radical Reconstruction, America's first experiment in interracial democracy.
1877 February After intense bargaining to resolve the disputed presidential election of 1876, Democrats agree to recognize Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as president, and Hayes agrees to end federal support for remaining Reconstruction governments.
A March 1867 cartoon, following the passage of the Reconstruction Act, shows President Johnson and his southern allies angrily watching African Americans vote.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Probably no period in American history is as controversial, as distorted by myth and as "essentially unknown" as the era of emancipation and Reconstruction, award-winning historian Foner (The Story of American Freedom; Reconstruction; etc.) argues in this dense, rectifying but highly readable account. His analysis of "that turbulent era, its successes and failures, and its long-term consequences up until this very day" addresses the debates among historians, corrects the misrepresentations and separates myth from fact with persuasive data. Foner opens his work with an overview of slavery and the Civil War and concludes with a consideration of the Civil Rights movement and the continuing impact of Reconstruction upon the current political scene, a framework that adds to the clarity of his history of that era, its aftermath and its legacy. Joshua Brown's six interspersed "visual essays," with his fresh commentary on images from slavery through Reconstruction to Jim Crow, buttress Foner's text and contribute to its accessibility. In his mission to illuminate Reconstruction's critical repercussions for contemporary American culture, Foner balances his passion for racial equality and social justice with disciplined scholarship. His book is a valuable, fluid introduction to a complex period. 139 illus. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375402594
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375402593
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #788,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind I remember reading about emancipation and reconstruction in my high school history class. To the best of my recollection, the sum total of the coverage devoted to these issues in that high school textbook might have been a dozen pages or so. My ideas about these issues, formed about four decades ago, have pretty much remained with me to this day. In his new book "Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction" Eric Foner, a Professor of History at Columbia University, shatters most of my pre-concieved notions about these monumental events in American history. It just wasn't that simple. Drawing on a wide range of long-neglected documents, Foner illustrates how African-Americans actually played a much more pivotal role in the events that were unfolding than was previously thought. "Forever Free" is a real eye-opener!

Although the reality is that employment opportunities for the vast majority of African-Americans would continue to be quite limited during the period of Reconstruction I was surprised to learn just how many former slaves would go on to positions of responsibility and prominence during this period. At the conclusion of the Civil War large numbers of former slaves poured into cities and towns all over the South. Once there these black men and women quickly established their own schools, churches, hospitals and fraternal societies. Some of the men harbored political aspirations and many were elected to posts at all levels of government. Still others dreamed of owning and working their own piece of land. These people knew what they wanted. All over America the perception of Black Americans was changing and for the most part changing for the better.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a powerful and insightful history of the emancipation of the slaves at the end of the Civil War, and the subsequent period of Reconstruction. Eric Foner contends that Reconstruction is probably the most misunderstood era of American history, as commonly accepted pronouncements about the period were mostly from hostile opponents of the sweeping social changes that the government tried to enact at the time. In fact, as Foner ably demonstrates, Reconstruction was actually an intensive program to include former slaves in the political and economic life of the South, and to quickly implement a wholesale replacement for the ruined slave economy that previously dominated the region. It actually worked for about a decade, with the emergence of many Black politicians and community leaders. But unfortunately the system was overthrown by the White power elite who yearned for a return to the system of economic and social subjugation, leading to the shameful Jim Crow system that was an embarrassment for America's democratic goals until the Civil Rights era.

This outstanding work of historical research by Foner uncovers the true issues behind the efforts of African Americans to achieve equal political and economic rights, and he also adds many insights on how deep outstanding issues from the Emancipation, Reconstruction and Civil Rights eras are still relevant to racial equality today. (Plus, an interesting bonus in Foner's work is the realization that the Democratic and Republican parties, when it comes to everything from race relations to fiscal policy, have completely reversed their positions since the late 1800s, and have effectively replaced each other.
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Format: Hardcover
... in Eric Foner and Joshua Brown's brilliant new book, "Forever Free". The U.S. has long heard the story of Reconstruction through the eyes of prejudice and misinformation, not allowing all groups a voice in the story . Foner and Brown attempt to correct the picture by providing an incredibly well-rounded view of this time, through the eyes of newly freed people who were promised the world, only to have it ripped out from underneath them.

Forever Free is really two books in one. Foner's story of slavery, and eventual emancipation, is the history lesson. He brings to the story great scholarship. Quite early on, it's evident that he has researched more than the usual story. By looking at authentic sources of information, such as black owned newspapers, diaries and oral histories, he successfully brings to light their story. As a slight scholar of this time myself, I was pleasantly surprised at the information he brought to light; for example, the slaves in South Carolina who created their own society after being freed, only to have to give it up immediately upon an ill-fated decision by President Andrew Johnson. Little gems of information like this are constantly mined throughout Foner's sections.

Joshua Brown's contribution is equally as vivid. He traces a visual history of African-Americans throughout the time. It is through his chapters that Foner's points of discrimination and stereotypes are emphasizes. Brown provides endless cartoons, photographs, and other art forms that serve to illuminate the book as a whole. To bounce from Foner to Brown is not disjointing at all; they have successfully married the two to form one united, powerful book.
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