THE INTENSE racial and social conflict that racked American society a decade ago caused a curious re-evaluation of slave emancipation and the constitutional decision for equal rights, which a century earlier had laid the foundation for modern advances in the sphere of civil rights. If it was necessary for black Americans to go so far as to engage in virtually revolutionary activity in order to achieve equality, many historians reasoned, then the release from bondage that occurred during the Civil War and the steps toward equality before the law taken during Reconstruction must have been regrettably, nay, tragically insubstantial. I am inclined to disagree with this judgment, not because I think that revolutionary or reformist action —a separate question in any case—was inappropriate in the circumstances that prevailed ten years ago, but because it presents an unhistorical view of past actions and events. By that I mean that it considers them principally in relation to present day concerns rather than in the context of their own time. Without denying the often very direct connection between past events and present tendencies in politics and society, I have tried in this book to present an accurate rendering of the events and ideas that in a political and constitutional sense marked the beginning of modern efforts to achieve racial integration on the basis of civil equality.
I acknowledge with pleasure and gratitude the valuable criticism and advice I have received in preparing this volume from George M. Dennison, trusted constitutional critic and friend, of Colorado State University, and from my colleagues Fred Nicklason, Ira Berlin, and George Callcott of the University of Maryland. The Graduate School of the University of Maryland,