Yankee Town, Southern City: Race and Class Relations in Civil War Lynchburg

By Thomas, William G., III | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview
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Yankee Town, Southern City: Race and Class Relations in Civil War Lynchburg


Thomas, William G., III, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


Yankee Town, Southern City. Race and Class Relations in Civil War Lynchburg. By STEVEN ELLIOOT TRIPP. The American Social Experience Series. New York and London: New York University Press, 1997. xviii, 344 pp. $21.00 paper.

JOHN WARWICK DANIEL, a Civil War veteran and Lynchburg resident who became United States senator in 1885, declared, "I am a Democrat because I am a white man and a Virginian." Historians have often used this remark to epitomize the divisive racial politics of the 1880s in the South that Conservative Democrats engineered. Daniel is featured prominently in many histories, but he appears in Yankee Town, Southern City only in the epilogue, giving an address on the centennial of Lynchburg's founding. There he spoke in tones of nostalgia and promise; he ignored the recent past of defeat, occupation, black emancipation, and political reconstruction. Steven Elliott Tripp suggests that Daniel and other elite whites wanted to set aside the recent past, so marked by racial and especially class strife, and instead focus on a social order they saw as more coherent and unified. According to Tripp's perceptive analysis, Lynchburg's experience shows just how ineffective Daniel and other elite whites were in their continual effort to shape class and race relations.

Tripp's Yankee Town, Southern City is a book brimming with ambition. It takes as its subject the experience of a city not just during the Civil War, but also before and after the war. Not satisfied with the limitations of many Civil War studies that look only at elite whites, this book sets out to include working-class whites and blacks in its narrative. Not satisfied with the debate on continuity and change in southern history, it stakes out new ground by suggesting that racial solidarity did not help reduce class friction. The result is a book that reaches well beyond the city limits of Lynchburg and recasts some of the most important questions of Virginia and southern history.

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