The American Past: Conflicting Interpretations of the Great Issues - Vol. 2

The American Past: Conflicting Interpretations of the Great Issues - Vol. 2

The American Past: Conflicting Interpretations of the Great Issues - Vol. 2

The American Past: Conflicting Interpretations of the Great Issues - Vol. 2

Excerpt

No aspect of the history of Reconstruction has so engaged the interest of historians as the character of the governments established in the South as the result of Congressional (Radical) Reconstruction policy. The fact that Negroes, for the first time in Southern history, played a part in these governments has made still more controversial what would undoubtedly have been a controversial matter under any circumstances. To many historians of Reconstruction, the period of Radical Reconstruction in the South was a time of unmitigated horror, the blackest chapter in the history of the South. Other historians of the era, in contrast, have stressed the accomplishments of the Radical governments and have challenged at several points the contentions of those who deplore the composition and the activities of the Radical regimes.

The two selections which follow exemplify the nature of the historical controversy concerning Radical Reconstruction in the South. Professor E. Merton Coulter, born in North Carolina, finds little to praise and much to condemn in the record of the Radical governments in the South. He is particularly critical of the part the Negroes played in these governments, a development which he believes should be "shuddered at, and execrated." Coulter, basically, is in agreement with the so-called Dunning school of Reconstruction historians, who have tended to view Reconstruction in the South as a struggle between good white Democrats and a coalition of bad Republicans, carpetbaggers, scalawags, and Negroes.

Taking issue with the point of view expressed by Coulter, Northern-born Professor Carl N. Degler summarizes the findings of scholars who have challenged some of the stereotypes of Reconstruction for which Dunning and his followers were to a degree responsible. Degler stresses the democratic aspects of Radical Reconstruction and attacks what he regards as the "myths" of Reconstruction historiography.

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.