Writing North Carolina History

By Jeffrey J. Crow; Larry E. Tise | Go to book overview

6
The Reconstruction That Took: North Carolina in the New South, 1877-1912

by Robert F. Durden

That Radical Reconstruction after the Civil War failed to achieve its purposes in the South is a universally recognized fact. Not only were the newly gained rights of the freedmen placed in jeopardy by 1877, to be gradually whittled away in succeeding years by the dominant whites, but the national Republican party did not even succeed in establishing the strong southern wing that architects of Congressional Reconstruction had envisioned. The political remodeling of the South in the image of the North and under the tutelage of Republicans proved to be an unattainable goal.

Despite these facts, there was, to use historian Carl Degler's telling phrase, a "Reconstruction that took." That was the acceptance of industrialization by a majority of the southern people as the great hope for the future. "By the time the First World War broke out in Europe," Degler maintains, "the American South had been 'northernized' to a degree only hoped for by the most ambitious of Reconstructionists. Moreover, this was permanent change, for the northern industrial way had been voluntarily accepted by the South." Quite aware that only a beginning of industrialization had been made by 1914 and that the greater part of the southern people still remained tied to the land, Degler nevertheless insists that the "decisive break with the agrarian tradition had been made" and that the South

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