tv The Civil War CSPAN May 31, 2015 10:30am-11:55am EDT
announcer: next, a panel of historians looks at the reconstruction era and the different way it has been viewed over time. the panel examines a reconstruction in tennessee and how many citizens reacted more positively to the government than their southern counterparts. tennessee was the last of the southern states to join the confederacy, and its population -- a significant portion of the state's population remained loyal to the union throughout the civil war. this 90 minute event took place in knoxville, tennessee. laura: good afternoon, welcome to the afternoon session of reconstruction tennessee. i serve on the sesquicentennial commission. as a representative of middle
tennessee state university's center for historic preservation. it is my pleasure to welcome and introduce our session moderator, dr. todd groce. dr. groce is the president and ceo of the georgia historical society. he has 25 years experience as an educator and administrator. he has raised $52,000 for educational programs and endowment. born in virginia but more importantly, raised in tennessee, he graduated with honors in history from the university of memphis and earned an ma from the university of tennessee. while in graduate school, he taught american history at the university of tennessee and maryville college. in 1990, he began his career in public history. he served five years in knoxville as the executive director of the east tennessee historical society and taking it
to the next level through the development of a regional history museum. in 1994, he was named the executive director of the georgia historical society. in 2006, he was elected their 43rd president. dr. groce understands the power that history has to transform the future. and the special role that the georgia historical society plays in that process. he says, "the essence of what it means to be an american can be found in our history. when we understand the story of our unique democratic institutions and traditions, how they were created, and the sacrifices made to expand our liberties, understand america. that is why it is crucial to teach our state's and nation's history, the survival of the republic depends upon it. it is also important to take an honest and unblinking look at the past. history is not just about
telling stories that make us feel good. it is about understanding what happened and why, the successes and failures. based on the documentary evidence before us we have to be , willing to see the path as it was an accepted on our own terms, even if that contradicts what we always believed." and now, i will turn the panel over to his leadership. thank you. dr. groce: thank you, laura, it is a real pleasure to see everyone out there today. we have a very good panel of distinguished historians. going to be discussing reconstruction and reunion in tennessee. dr. bobby lovett, dr. luke harlow and dr. tracy mckenzie from wheaton college. what i would like to do is jump right into the program, on behalf of them, welcome to everybody, we are delighted to help us as we go through the exploration of reconstruction
and reunion in tennessee. despite nearly half a century of scholarship to the contrary, many if not most americans , continue to see reconstruction as a dark and tragic era in our nation's history. indeed, little of the romance and fascination that has enveloped the civil war applies to reconstruction, even though the two can be seen as one continuous event linked by common goals. the reunification of the nation, the destruction of slavery, and the creation of civil rights for african-americans. for decades, many, if not many most americans, accept the myth of appomattox. the confederate armies' surrender meant peace and the end of the war. i brought this, this was in my hometown newspaper savannah, last week about the surrender at appomattox. it says "the surrender and peace at appomattox."
that has been part of how we understood this, that the war came to an end at appomattox. having surrendered, confederate soldiers expected -- accepted the verdict. the reunification of the nation would have been quickly achieved if a vengeful north had not stopped through the imposition of federal power to punish the white south by imposing on it tyrannical and alien state government run by northern carpetbaggers, southern scalawags and ignorant and incompetent former slaves. as the myth goes, the white south, through the heroic efforts of the ku klux klan and other paramilitary groups rose up, redeeming their state and saving white civilization. this so-called dunning school of interpretation was made popular by movies and books such as
"birth of a nation" and it gave a sheen of respectability for jim crow. as historian james goodman observed, this is through decades of lynching segregation, disenfranchisement, debt. -- debt peonage,-presidents made -- heightened prejudiced. this afternoon, our panel of experts will tackle the problem of reconstruction, its myths its realities, its successes its failures, and how it came to shape and distort our understanding of the civil war. so gentlemen, thank you for being here and welcome. let's jump right into it. what was reconstruction? why was it and post? what were the goals of reconstruction? this thing that we are talking about today. tracy? dr. mckenzie: i would be happy
to. i like to tell my students that reconstruction is the title of chapter 16 in every survey text of american history. [laughter] the term itself is more ambiguous than we typically use it. when historic inns use the term, more often than not they are typically talking about the. after the civil war -- there typically talking about the period after the civil war and when the government was deciding the role to play and long-term consequences of the war. i like to tell my students that if they studied the american civil war and stop their studies at appomattox, than they are not really interested in the civil war at all. that is true, because most of the issues were not really resolved in april of 1865. some things were clear, secession had been repudiated by force, the union had been
preserved, slavery had been abolished, but what they really would mean for the life of the country and the kind of union being preserved, and what it would mean for white confederates former slaves, what it would mean for race relations, the balance of power politically between the democratic and republican parties, what it would mean for southern regional power, all of these questions were still up in the air. when we think of the mindset of southerners in of 1865, the april first thing that comes to mind is uncertainty. it is a palpable feeling of uncertainty that pervades almost all ranks of society. so the period we refer to in reconstruction is a period in which there is a national conversation as well as considerable conflict and violence trying to answer the question what are the long-term questions of the civil war. it is almost impossible to exaggerate how high the stakes are. dr. groce: we cannot see this as
one event. you cannot really separate these two and say there is a civil war period that has ended and now we have peace, or do we really have peace? what happens as we get into reconstruction? can we talk a little bit more about reconstruction and what it meant? dr. harlow: yes, let's talk about one of the things that tracy meant here, historians like to call this period the second american revolution. it might even be more accurate to call it the american revolution. what do we mean by that? one of the things that is absolutely clear and absolutely front and center in this issue is that the nation, the united states will be something new, it will be remade by this
experience. where we see this most fundamentally is in slavery. the population concentrated in the south it is worth $3 billion, and that $3 billion is an incredible sum of money. so much so that the wealth and slaves mean that per capita, white southerners are on balance richer than those of the north at the start of the civil war. one of the things that happened is, frankly, a confiscation of wealth. a confiscation of property and persons. the united states is going to decide that it is no longer going to be a country that has property in persons built into its framework. 1789-1860, the u.s. was a proslavery country. for 50 of the first 72 years there was a slaveholding president. that is all going to change and it is going to change through military force, it is going to change through the actions of enslaved people themselves becoming formerly slave people and free people.
it will change through the force of law. the 14th amendment will confer broad citizenship and the 15th amendment will confer voting rights regardless of race. these things tracy is talking about are wide open but are absolutely a sea change in what the united states will be. dr. groce: dr. lovett? dr. lovett: i wrote down a little something because i have tried to make students understand, i am retired now but there is an african-american view of reconstruction and the results of reconstruction which is a failed experiment to many african-americans today. but most importantly, for us to be reminded that 150 years is nothing for people who were
emancipated from slavery after 400 years. so naturally, south african american writers like dubois and others, you would understand why we have the perspective of reconstruction like the dubois "black reconstruction," a classic published in 1835. my ancestors were enslaved persons who arrived at the port of charleston and annapolis from africa. the offspring, my personal family, to give you the same perspective i approach history from. they entered tennessee from north carolina in 1851, they came via the domestic slave trade, so our journey has been from west africa, the caribbean, into charleston, into north carolina, and finally into tennessee, to where i am today.
that is a very short period of time. the ghosts of these grandfathers and grandmothers i am talking about provide first-hand knowledge for us of the civil war and reconstruction. and that is why we see it differently. during the great depression, small landholders and tenant farmers, this is the aftermath of civil war and reconstruction. and laborers, this huge family the cotton family, moved to memphis. and at the time, my mother's sister was just three months old, she told me just the other day. she still resided in the city in 1979. before i was born in the in the 1940's, my post slavery family endured two generations of
reconstruction. widespread lynching, economic repression, and the triumph of tennessee jim crow. most of all, most all of my family except for the 1851 generation of mary and henry houston, was still alive. i know all those generations except for the first generation. it shows you how short of this period is that we are talking about. five generations of us lived under one roof in south memphis in a three room house. i knew them all very personally. my preschool teacher was my great-great-grand uncle. his name was julius. my baby brother, like the naming practices of slavery, is named julius, and he still lives in memphis.
reminiscing of work assignments given out to old slaves during slavery times, julius was a babysitter for all of us toddlers. everybody had children in the house. he was blind and he was the one who stayed home and kept all of us. he kept us quiet by being our teacher. that is where i learned my west tennessee history. he could talk about history in west tennessee all the way back to slavery, which his parents were slaves. and therefore, we learned firsthand of a version of what happened in this 150 years. but anyway, his sister callie, my great grandmother, she died in the upstairs bedroom while they were marching in the civil
rights movement in downtown memphis in 1960-1961. i was coming home from high school when they were bringing out her body from the house. she was from that second generation of slavery. incidentally, i am writing a new book. i'm going to use this as my basis that african-americans have a peculiar, we say the peculiar institution of slavery and we have a peculiar view of civil war and reconstruction, so that will help hopefully in looking at some of those to kill your things as african it. i'm trying to see it from their eyes and mine. let me just, anyway the civil , war -- the real dispute was not about slaves and it was not about slavery.
although slaves and slavery became a chief controversy of those two events in american history. but abraham lincoln and most american citizens had wanted the country to join the age of enlightenment. they have been talking about that since 1787 and the constitution in 1789. the age of reform was going on. there was an intellectual and cultural revival that was going on in the western world at that time. economically, the industrial revolution. and i think that reconstruction was about making some decisions for this young american nation. as lincoln said, born just yesterday. many dispute that the 1787
convention was never soft. one of those -- many disputes at the 1787 convention or never solved. one of those was the slavery compromised that was passed just to get the constitution approved in 1787. but those issues or never solved. the north won the war with the help of 200,000 african-american men. they won the war. so they won the right to dictate what direction the nation would follow. there would be no slavery. and negro americans would become citizens. that was a radical decision that had not been made before. the decision had been made to exclude indians. they would not be citizens, they were to be put in reservations given some of the land. and here is the most radical
decision that would complicate reconstruction. they're going to make negros citizens. this is a decision that was made by northerners. number 2 -- number three, native americans would remain 70 sovereign -- semi sovereign with their only and. it would take time to finalize that decision but but a decision had to be made. and number four, mexican americans and their vast lands would remain as spoils of war. the war had only been a few years ago 1848, the mexican-american or. and decisions had to be made and those decisions were made towards the reconstruction time including in the 1870's and 1880's. number five, american democracy.
how would american democracy pan out since the civil war? in american democracy, they decided, it would be refined but also they decided it would be extended, and that is where the 14th and 15th amendments come in and later the 20th amendment. it is going to be refined and it is going to be extended. it is not going to be the old jacksonian democracy. we're not going to stop at that point. number six, repudiation of the states' rights theory, and we are debating that today in the supreme court. over that issue, it is about states rights. they made a decision that the states rights theory was going to be repudiated. then they repudiated it by passing the 14th amendment in
1868. it connects the bill of rights to the states. it also gives the federal government citizens which it did not have in 1787. and finally, they rejected the elite class as the basis of the american social order. that one is still going on about , the disparity of wealth and 1% of the nation controlling the rest of the nation. that was the decision made after the civil war by those in the north in reconstruction. and finally, the pursuit of the theory of capitalism and free labor. they were not just talking anymore about this was going to be thomas jefferson's agrarian society. they made a decision, and especially if you read the letters and the writings of abraham lincoln, that is what he
is talking about when he is talking about slavery has to go. it was a threat to free labor, and lincoln and others made the decision, this country is going to be based on capitalism and free labor. those, as i see it, were the real reconstruction issues. dr. groce: so, then, to summarize it very broadly. i think this is very important because i think one of the questions we are going to get towards the end, how is this a success and how is this a failure? and in what way. we have an agenda that is set to help remake the south by bringing to it true democracy. and we are going to end slavery and we are going to create now a government system where a union is going to be held together -- forever. as you mentioned, we are going to deal with the issue about
states' rights left over from the constitutional convention. picking up on that, let's talk about what i mentioned at the beginning and have discussed briefly. we have all this scholarship over the past 50 years about reconstruction and what it was but the public still has this sort of negative image. where does that come from and why do you think that continues to persist? where does that image come from? why does it persist? why do we still see the civil war as romantic and glamorous but reconstruction as something bad and tragic? anyone. dr. harlow: to get the ball rolling, one of the reasons we see public resistance is that it is incredibly messy and complicated.
it is very hard, state-by-state, it is a very, sort of, difficult process. secondarily, it is because of the historians themselves. people like us up here at this table -- except 100 years ago were largely white historians. they were largely in the thrall of something called the dunning school. starting in the 19 teens started by w. e. b. dubois. there was a tradition of african american scholarship that challenged the rule. a second ago, he talked about the role african-americans played in reconstructing democracy in america. one of the things that the dunning school, turn-of-the-century and started by william dunning, it argues
that not only that african americans are sort of inferior but more importantly, incapable of democracy, incapable of self government. i think one of the main themes in dunning's work is to suggest that some people or not fit to participate in american democracy. so for dunning and dunning's school, it is a question about democracy. we see this overturned finally by historians in the era of civil rights, but it is something that has hung with us and permeates the public discourse about what was going on in reconstruction and what it was about. dr. mckenzie: let me just jump in and add a few things. i think it is an incredibly complicated question that might seem simple on the surface. there are a lot of factors going on. one thing that jumps out to me is popular culture. i do not think we should
underestimate the influence of feature-length films. the first feature-length film in america is "birth of a nation," presenting reconstruction in the most lurid kinds of tones and "gone with the wind," which basically reinforces that with greater sophistication but sends the same kind of message. dr. groce: tracy, remind us of what woodrow wilson said? dr. mckenzie: woodrow wilson is reported to say that it was true that the movie itself was like writing history with lightning, according to that story, wilson endorses this particular reading of the american past. i think that is part of it. a kind of negative view of reconstruction that is
consistent with political ideology that is reflexively skeptical for the potential of government to be used as a positive agent in change or social justice. if that is one's view, a negative understanding of reconstruction becomes one of the great exhibits of evidence to reinforce that. i think the negative view of reconstruction, if we could narrow for folks are little bit, the negative reconstruction is held by white southerners, and it has been psychologically very comforting. not long after the civil war southern whites began to create their own history of the civil war, and it was a history that said that the history of the civil war had very little to do about slavery at all. something no white southerner would have said before the civil war. it would have been preposterous to say that, but almost immediately after the war, that almost immediately became the argument. four southerners, white
southerners, at least, they will begin to create a story which says that there had really not been a race problem in this part of the country, and race relations has been relatively harmonious. it was only when -- if i can say this on television -- those damn yankees intruded that there began to be a race problem. so reconstruction again became one of those great examples of that. the argument -- there are sort of two dimensions to this argument -- one was that african americans were quite content as slaves, and it was only under a free society that racial conflict came to the fore, and some would argue, a variation on that that slavery was being phased out or what have been phased out gradually without violence. and much more effectively in the long turn then at the point of a bayonet. this, again, feeds into an
interpretation that it was only with federal interference that a race problem was created. and if the government had just left the south alone everything , would have worked out well. a historian named david potter writing in the 1960's, he taught at harvard but he was a georgia native, and he said the truth is just not very psychologically satisfying to a generation of white southerners. i think that has something to do why this perception of reconstruction is so persistent. if i could add one other thing you said something about how complicated this period is. history is messy. i start this with my students, i try to put this in latin because it sounds more profound. but the idea is that history is complicated.
while in the north, there was a dimension of a voice for federal activism that was motivated by the highest principles and by really genuine commitment to social justice, there was a lot of self interest and partisan scheming and manipulation. so it is not fair to say that it was all noble or also interested, because it was both. there is a grain of truth to this negative perception of reconstruction. dr. groce: i deal with folks all the time who want to talk about just giving us the facts when talking about the past, just give me all of these facts, let's not go through the interpretation. but they don't understand just how complex -- they understand the world that we are living in today is complex, but they want
something that is very simple, and we just want a straightforward answer to something, and we all know if i were to ask you what is going on in this room right now everybody have a different interpretation and a different understanding. that is a fact, but what is it all about? i think this is something that is a real challenge for us as historians, people don't understand the purpose of history and how many words. let's talk a little bit about tennessee in itself. because this is what the session is about. how is tennessee different, how did it have a different story than the rest of the south? dr. harlow: tennessee is quite different, and i am working on a book, and i am a student right now since i am working on a book. i am learning all kinds of things while doing research, and you try to reeducate yourself so that you can be more intelligent on that subject. i think the argument is that one
of the reasons there is such a negative interpretation of that historical event reconstruction, which some historians start at 1865 and others in 1877 and other say and 1890 and in my book i go on to say it goes until 1896, and so many say, what is the period that is covered in a reconstruction? my argument is, from what i have learned, the family that i mentioned, and so on, this era of reconstruction never ended for african-americans. it is as important today as it was 150 years ago, because many of the issues that i listed have never been concluded in american history and in american life but one of the reasons that people don't like reconstruction
today is because we continue to base reconstruction on that argument of race relations. as people say today in certain cities, we've got to improve race relatlations, and it wasn't race relations, it was race. once slavery was now based on race, as i see it, after the and him and him and revolutionary war and after indentured servitude and the indentured servitude and redemption contracts and conflict contracts ended and will slavery was purely based on race , and that was what was upset by the civil war. the civil war and its aftermath completely restructured southern society.
despite the fact that there was sharecropping and near slavery conditions still experienced by many of the former slaves, it was completely reconstructed. and then the 14th amendment, which we argue in the supreme court today, that argument is based on the 14th amendment, the most radical part of the constitution. of course, aced on that, people began -- based on that, people began to resent society. it began to reconstruct all of society and society is still being reconstructed as it was not completely reconstructed by
1877, or 1890, or 1896. it was about one word, and it was about race. people don't like to talk about it today, despite all of the things going on, people will say, no, that is not the problem. bad relations, you know? it is about once that word became the basis of how reconstruction would go then of course it has been a complex issue, reconstruction. remember, northerners were also against slavers. but remember, there were many who were not for it. there were northern missionaries
who would help to keep these people down here, we don't want them to cross the ohio river and come up there and compete with us socially and economically. as i said in my civil rights book, civil rights never crossed the ohio river in the 1960's. i think we have to do more work on what race meant in america in the 18th century and the 19th century and the 20th century and now, here we are a short time later in the 21st century. what did race do and how did it him andwhat did race do and how did it play a role to americans in the north and south? these were revolutionary changes. this was a radical change in the constitution. that radical change in the constitution made a proposed radical change in american society, and we've got to put all of that together to finally try to understand what really happened and why some of us do
not like reconstruction. but frederick douglass said when he was asked the same question before his death in 1895, and incidentally, he spoke here in knoxville, he spoken chattanooga, he came to speak in nashville, he spoke in memphis he toured this state during reconstruction three times. and douglass said the past is not dead and it cannot die as people would wish the past would die, and we won't talk about it. he said, the past is not dead and the past cannot die, there are no bygones, said douglass. the evil that men do continues him andthe evil that men do continues long after they are dead. we would rather forget the bad part of history and only
remember the part that we can glorify and celebrate, so i think we need to keep in mind that one big word, and it is probably going to end up in two volumes covering slavery and the civil war and reconstruction in tennessee, because it is a complex one missing, one word, and that word is how did race play in these historical events? him and him and dr. groce: it and was revolutionary in the sense, particularly that you've got an example where there is a slave population that is freed and within just a couple of years they are voting, many of them are holding office, this was an extraordinary revolutionary experiment really, in america. there is writing about the role of the military in
reconstruction, and one of the things pointed out was that surrender was not the end of the war but a turning point in the war, and that wartime continues even when open hostilities may have ended, there was still guerrilla activity, and paramilitary organizations, and the white south only exceeds the federal power when the power did not threaten their control over african-americans. so just because they are silent and because they have been defeated on the battlefield, doesn't mean they have been subdued, or they have changed their thinking overnight about the issues of race. well, let's talk about tennessee. we've got some interesting characters in tennessee, and we had lunch together earlier, and we were talking about some of
those. we have a president of the united states during the first era of reconstruction, specifically from east tennessee. tennessee's story is not the rest of the confederate south. -- tennessee's story is not the restsame as the rest of the confederate south. dr. mckenzie: i think this is something that most people is familiar with and generally how we tend to forget, and this is how staunchly unionist the state of tennessee was. i will blank about 70% of voters in tennessee voted against
secession. i don't know if that is so much an expression to the union as it is antipathy towards tennessee. so what ever the forces are behind that, there was a very strong unionist population in east tennessee, around 30,000 east tennessee at males will go into the northern army, that is more than some northern states and this contingent becomes a kind of foundation for the beginning of an indigenous republican party within the state. the leader of this movement, there are really two, and you referred to them both, one was green county's andrew johnson who serves as a united states senator when the war begins and as a military governor of tennessee and becomes a vice president shortly after the war is over, and then carson brownlow who had spent part of his youth in the lands near knoxville and becomes a leading unionist leader as well. so you have a political
situation in the immediate aftermath of the war, for all intents and purposes, all the state's unionist had any political voice. a combination of andrew johnson him and him and will a combination of andrew johnson in the white house and parson brownlow as the governor will help that for a brief period of time. the electorate is disenfranchised and the unionist majority has a stranglehold on the government, and they work very quickly to try and cooperate with federal policy that is being fashioned by
washington, d.c. the centerpiece of that is as professor lovett was suggesting, the 14th amendment. every state who participated in the rebellion would have to agree to that in order to be enfolded again in the national government. nashville acted very quickly to do that, so tennessee is the first state to ratify the 14th amendment. and in so doing that, tennessee is able to escape from implications passed in march of 1867 called the first reconstruction act. the first reconstruction act establishes military rule for the defeated confederacy. the confederacy is divided into military diction -- military areas and they are subject to military rule. among all the confederate states, tennessee is the one that is not included in that military rule. so it is a very unique story and second thing, and i won't go into much detail, but the second
thing turns out faster here. because the governor of the state legislature actually -- vanquished by 1869. in 1870, you have a conservative majority that has gained control of the state, and any potential for dramatic change in race relations, the window had closed for that. dr. groce: one of the things that we do move very quickly on intimacy is african-american voting. brownlow reveals that he is a racist guy who has harsh feelings against african-americans, so why is he ever kidding for african-american voting rights? dr. mckenzie: most americans are unionist, and that is going to be the support for the brownlow government, so the only thing to perpetuate control is to in
-- indefinitely -- that renders state government fundamentally essentially illegitimate. so brownlow's feeling pressure from the very beginning to back away from the policy that had is in franchise disloyal white confederates. so if you are gradually going to ring him more and more of that white population back into the confederate, you are going to lose the state government unless you can put the ballot in the hands of the state of tennessee's black male population. the state legislature will enfranchise blocks as late as the 1870's. dr. harlow: i think apart -- a part we are missing is a black initiative.
what were blacks doing about these issues? were they in front of brownlow or the following brownlow? and they were in front of brownlow on the suffrage issue. in 1864, 6 men returned from syracuse, new york, the national colored men's convention from west tennessee and middle tennessee -- convention, three were from west tennessee and three were from middle tennessee. one of the issues was abolishment of slavery. you had the emancipation proclamation, which didn't even pretend to free slaves in tennessee because lincoln exempt in tennessee like he did a couple of other states.
so african-americans had taken in their own initiatives to push for constitutional emancipation. because remember, the proclamation, the next president can throw it out the door, it was just a proclamation by lincoln. it was nothing official or constitutional. so we knew that, african-americans, and in syracuse, new york, that was one of the first goals they established, was the constitutional abolishment of slavery. secondly, if all of these african-americans, 33,000 of them, were going to die on the civil war battlefield, they wanted the right to vote. citizenship and suffrage was on the agenda at the zürich use --
at the syracuse coalition. so they formed her first civil rights organization, and that was the national equal rights league. if you look at the national equal rights league of 1864, that is prior to the agenda, they are pushing for the right to vote, they knew that they needed political power, because politics is meant for an american environment. that is how this wealthy country split up, who gets something and who gets nothing and who gets the crumbs? that is what politics is for, it is not about civil rights. so they pushed for that. january 1, 1865, they brought the president of the national equal rights league to tennessee, and he spoke in the house of representatives to more than 2000 people. and we look at his speech, he is calling for equal rights and
suffrage, that is, the right to vote. the very next month, march 5 tennessee becomes the first state, other than maryland and missouri, to abolish slavery on its own, and they abolished slavery on march 5, just months after all of that activity by african-americans. then, the next month, april 5, when they are closing in on richmond, including 25,000 troops under grant, they pass, of course, the 14th amendment ratification. so there are things going on around brownlow and before brownlow and they are initiated by blacks. in fact, the first thing they will do when they are confronted by andrew johnson is that they will place this upon his
shoulders and johnson will have a very bad session, as many know, with that delegation of lack leaders saying, are you going to support suffrage? are you going to support equal rights? one of the things that i learned from my old advisor at the university of arkansas, who recently passed, was for a long time, we were writing history with blacks as the object in the sentence. and we missed the point because we did not put them in the front of the sentence as the predicate, as the actors. we did not say, blacks did this, blacks did that, rather, things were done to him, things were done for him, and consequently we missed the point of history.
so brownlow's not having pressure from northern republicans to do this in february 1867, but he is having pressure from african-americans within tennessee. by the time he gets the suffrage will pass through the general him and him and assembly, blacks have had two state colored men's conventions of their own. when we look at the objections that they established, one of them was suffrage. so brownlow is also reacting, i think, not only to what northern radical republicans want him to do in order to save the republican party and in order to save tennessee and to keep them in power as long as he possibly can, but behind the scenes african-americans are in the
front of that sentence. they are taking the action. they are the actors. they are saying, we want the right to vote. we have served in the military. we helped saved the union. we helped restore the union. we helped saved democracy. now we want the right to vote. so brownlow had a lot of support from black voters in tennessee but that was not only from a unionist but also from black tennesseans. dr. groce: one important thing we need to add here -- dr. lovett: one important thing we need to add here is that
reconstruction as what was or was not done -- but one of the things that we need to bear in mind is the incredible of violent resistance to the idea of things that professor lovett was talking about. we had nathan bedford forrest and his grand wizards, and one of the things that happened in tennessee because it does not have military occupation by the united states army is that there is no federal force from the outside to protect the vote for african-americans. so governor brownlow is in a position where he creates what is called the state guard. in 1867, when you have an opportunity for african-americans to vote for the first time in tennessee, what do you have? violence. 1868, may be the worst year for election violence across the united states, maybe in american
history. 1869, conservatives are going to be rising, and you will see violence again. the state guard is created by brownlow as sort of a militia. you are going to see a clear linkage that will play out across the south for voting for african-americans and violent white counterrevolutionary activity. dr. groce: so what is the legacy of reconstruction? what were the successes? were there any? we talk about the failures of reconstruction. were there any successes that came out of reconstruction and why did it come to an end the way it did? dr. holder: i think it is actually important to say, and for myself, it is not a failure,
defeat, political defeat to expand american citizenship, maybe a coup d'etat may be an appropriate term to describe some of the things that go on in suppressing the vote. i think one of the things that we have to bear in mind when we look at anything in american history is the maximum amount of contingency and the things that hang in the balance, and i think looking at the massive amount of change that occurs in american history during this period are people who were held as property ten years later are voting as citizens. it's a complete sort of change and reversal. without overlooking many things are ready mentioned, not race relations, but racism.
it's also important to acknowledge that changes are part of the american fabric, and the changes. dr. lovett: i don't think success is in in 1896, and that is because you had plessy versus ferguson, and that overturned on a lot of things that had gone in during reconstruction. the supreme court itself is saying that racial discrimination is ok, that separate but equal is ok and we have to deal with that until brown versus board of education in 1954 when another supreme court says it is not ok. but here are the successes, one of those would be the 13th amendment, december 18, 1865 which was a radical amendment.
remember now what is going across the seas and russia in 1862. this was a radical change, because i believe it is only three sentences, the 13th amendment. it abolishes slavery just like that. because it abolishes slavery by one stroke of the pen by 1865, it nullifies three sections of the 1787 constitution. it nullifies the act by those states. and incidentally, the last state that existed then to ratify the 13th amendment was mississippi.
that was january, 2013, that mississippi finally ratified the 13th amendment to the constitution. talking about civil war and the reconstruction still continuing, they believed it was still on, because they had ratified that amendment until just recently. if you look in the federal register, finally, january of 2013, mississippi had that ratified, the 13th amendment to the constitution, 150 years later, almost. the other thing is, well, that is a radical, positive change, because it changes african-americans from property to persons. that was a great success of reconstruction. they are no longer property. they are persons. and then the 14th amendment, the 1866 civil rights bill that is
embodied into the 14th amendment, that says that they are now also citizens. it simply says all persons born in these united states are citizens of these united states, a very clever amendment that was passed, and that was one of the most positive. it endures today. we had the supreme court discussing the 14th amend today about equal rights, state rights, and the 15th amendment which is the right to vote that will be protected. it does not say anything about race, color. the constitution of united states in 1787 said nothing
about race, white or black. these are very clever amendment that change the structure of american society and radically changed our constitution. but most importantly, when the republicans in tennessee decided that african-americans could vote, you are talking about men. consequently, what does that do in february, 1867? it mask realizes them masculinizes them. that is going to be a big fight. now you are saying a black man is equal to me?
he can step up to the polls and vote? and so black men were masculinized for the first time because all of the masculinity had been taken out of them during the days of slavery. that is why many of these people are going to relish the right to vote. because it gives them masculinity. one of the speakers at the 1865 colored men convention in tennessee, meeting international at the st. john's of physical church, which is still there today in nashville. he said, we are ready have a one right -- the right to have a gun. he was a sergeant. he said, we have the gun, now we are going to get the ballot. black and were very conscious of the fact that fighting in the civil war did not give them masculinity completely. but if they get the right to vote, they will be able to step up to the polls and vote just like any other man. that has been debated. do black men need to be equal to
white men in american society? i think those were the successes of the reconstruction. we don't get the failure completely of reconstruction until the 1890 land grab amendment, which allowed federal money to go to states who denied blacks higher education. they could set up a separate school. that was a big concession on the part of the north, a part of this nation, that we are going to allow them to segregate on the basis of race. now some the masculinity is taken away. you see? and finally the u.s. supreme court in 1896, messi versus ferguson, says, don't worry about it, everything is ok. you can discriminate as long as
you make it equal. you can put him on this car, as long as you given an equal car on the railroad. this case, to me, is when we began talking about the failure of reconstruction. as you can probably tell from my words, it has been continuous . reconstruction has never ended. we have never solved all of these problems in our society. professor groce: how are you going to accomplish that? keep in army in the south? or can you achieve the sense of security better by having african-americans voting, having civil rights, is that going to be the vehicle through which to do that? ultimately, the nation comes to a point that that is the success
that we have got. we can't keep the army there forever. so we are going to see it as a success because we are unable to -- because we have been able to bring african-american into the voting body politic. dr. harlow: successes, failures, and why does it come to an end the way that it does? my daughter said that when i die, the epitaph on my tombstone will be "it is complicated." [laughter] i don't know if is a good legacy were not, but as historians we learn the complexity of history. i think the panel has captured the ingenuity. certainly the 13th and 14th amendments are landmarks. they are see changes in a way that the mobile government functions. they are sea changes that are
truly realized essentially later. we want to emphasize that the president has established if we build on innovation or emphasized the greek to which these were not utilized, these instruments are very persistent in the late 19th century. it largely depends upon your perspective. i think what we learn from reconstruction is, that to the degree that it was an experience to promote a different racial order in america, it was a experience with a dramatic advance in popular opinion, not just in the former confederate states, but in the country as a whole. when civil war printout, 93% of african-american males are disqualified voting, explicitly on the basis of their race by state law. the u.s. military in 1860 did not allow people of color to serve in the u.s. army. that has two b changed before the u.s. color troops could be created. in the blink of an eye, when
black enfranchisement was imposed in the south, it was dramatically ahead of what the nation as a whole had in terms of any broad commitment to enforcing. i think we see that. i posed that question to my students -- how might it have been different? was there a consensus to use military force for a long period of time? that consensus did not consist. there was a great deal of skepticism and suspicion about a sustaining army in peacetime which is what they had been calling for. when all is said and done, remaking the racial map in the south was vastly more difficult than defeating the armies of robert e lee. i do not feel that there was a cultural commitment to win in that regard.
dr. harlow: it may defeated on the battlefield, but they are not subdued. in construction, we see the the continuance of the complete erosion of african-american -- dr. lovett: i think we forget that spanish-american war of 1898. that was about the time that the reconciliation took place between northern whites and a southern whites. they all agreed pretty much on plessy versus ferguson. that is their complication that we don't take into consideration. a re-conciliation and they pretty much agree on some things. one of the things they agree on is about race. as people say, martin luther king got in trouble when he tried to take the civil rights movement to chicago.
you had a bloody end and all that because there is not a lot of space between how southern whites think and how northern whites think. we sometimes separate that, and say, so that was more keen on race because they have more black amongst them, as when a missionary said coming down into tennessee. my god, there are so many blacks down here. it looks like a cloud of locusts. they do not have many blacks in the north. most of them lived in the south. southerners lived around a lot of blacks all the time. they looked at race a little more differently than a northerners, but not too much different. there is not that much of a
difference. george wallace proved that in his campaign for president in the 1960's, won as much as he did north as he did south, the . we have to look at that reconciliation as a whole conciliation of the north and south about how to deal with race by 1899. and then look at in supreme court cases that have passed 1899 and 1904. there really is a political reconciliation about how race will be handled in america one generation after the civil war had ended. we have to take those things into consideration. we also need to, in our study of reconstruction, focus on immigration.
by the end of that reconstruction, immigration has impacted this country for, what, 60 years? one of the things i cover in the book is a whole chapter on immigration and slavery in tennessee. then immigration in the civil war in tennessee. there were non-anglicans coming to the country in droves by the 1830's, 1840's and 1850's. they are not english. they are coming from non-english countries. the ladies of the american revolution will tell you that. they will say, we are the original americans, and those other people who can, they are the russians. my brother in indiana said
people who are from the south. russians are taking our jobs. americans looked at all of these people coming in from germany, some of the irish, i will be talking about jews. all of these people are coming in the 1840's-1850's, and then there is a real proliferation in the 1890's. i think most of you would agree if you look at the 1890's census. what role do they think blacks play in that society? there was the rise in new york against the draft. those rights were because he passed the emancipation proclamation. there were people saying, i cannot going to be drafted to
fight for no slaves who will come up here and take my job. there is that whole component, which i am working on, of immigration from a europe in the 1830's 1840's and 1850's, especially in a place like memphis. those people were going to be immigrants by the time the war breaks out in 1861. we need to take the re-conciliation into consideration. you may set it earlier or later. and then, of course, figure in how the mass event of immigration affects what is going on in tennessee and the nation in that generation after the civil war? because they have something to say about this too. they have something to say about race. as you will see in the publications from 1900-1915,
those books that came out during that period of time. there are some other dynamics going on. those will affect the first reconstruction and then how reconstruction continues up until today. dr. groce: the other part of the reunion story story, if we are going to bring the nation together again, we stop talking about slavery and focus on what the two sides have in common. that provides the platform for the reconciliation. but at the same time as you pointed out, african-american rights have deteriorated. and it was not a coincidence that happened at the same time. dr. lovett: the important thing
is that northern whites and southern whites agreed on the matters of race, how race is going to fit into society. we forget that sometimes. we don't like to talk about it. the best book i have ever read and i made my students read in american history, is a book by a german psychologist. his book is simple entitled "the question of german guilt or." which is a series of lectures date in a university in germany over and over again, the question of german guilt. he says, we don't like to talk about what happened in germany because everybody is guilty. he says there is physical guilt. if i can take a gun and shoot you, but then it metaphysical guilt. nobody wants to talk about those things, how they played a part.
northerners did not want to talk about what they did during slavery. but they built an industrial machine. they built capitalism out of slavery. the textile mills were there. they were making their wealth off of the south, and the south was making its wealth off of the slaves. they were not innocent. and northerners recognized that they were not innocent of slavery. they were transporting the slaves from rhode island over to west africa. a booming industry for them in the north, even though they were abolishing slavery. in modern times, it is like what carl gasper says, the question of german guilt -- germany, you need to talk about this, but germans do not talk about this. america, you need to talk about this, but americans do not want to talk about that.
they just want to talk about the military history of the civil war, who won the war, who won this battle, the glorification of generals and officers and all of that. and they don't want to talk about the social-political issues and economic issues of the civil war. northerners do not want to talk about it either. they are not having the kind of celebrations we are having right now down south and in tennessee on the civil war and reconstruction in the north. but they should be because the primary problem has not been solved. dr. groce: one last question before we open it up to the audience. in looking at the recent experiences in iraq, what lessons can we draw from the period of reconstruction about how wars in end and how america ends its wars?
dr. harlow: i don't have an answer to that question. [laughter] but what i can say is that for a long time, historians thought that it was no real significant occupation of the south during reconstruction. part of that was because of the things you are ready talked about, where white supremacist backlash was so profound that it seemed like there was no support federally for the right to free people, equal voting, etc. what historians are now starting to find out, and there is a fine book "after appomattox." what others are showing is that there wasn't an occupation, in fact there was an occupation and by global standards, it is a profound occupation. in fact, the force that would have been required is so much more profound than what anyone announcer:
anyone could have imagined at the time. andrew johnson says yeah, you can use the force of the military. use the force, luke. sorry. [laughter] i teach right down the street. there is more where that came from. that was terrible. [laughter] in all seriousness, the issue is that the lesson, if there is such a thing to be learned from history, is that often times the task is far greater than you could possibly imagine. and often times, the work required to do what you think is necessary is far greater than you can imagine. you ought to approach big tasks with humility. and honesty and the clarity of purpose that is not clouded by a variety of limiting impulses. in the time of the american
reconstruction, the thought on the ground politically was that having any troops whatsoever in the american south is foolhardy. it turns out there was not enough to do the job. in our own time, a little bit of caution, thinking that maybe this will be harder than we think is a useful concept. dr. groce: greg uses the concept -- the phrase that peace would follow but not create the world. it is interesting when you think that lessons or experiences recently in which we declared a war to be over, and yet it really isn't over. the turmoil continues, the fighting continues, but just on another level. let's open it up to q&a from the audience. i think we have a microphone over here. if you would, please, make your way to the microphone so that
everyone can figure question. and if you would please, ask a question as opposed to making a statement. that would be wonderful. [laughter] and the panelists appear would have something to respond to. thank you very much. >> reconstruction is in many ways an act of nation building. it is an economic, social, political act of remaking a nation into something new. it is not the only place this is happening around the world. how does it compare to germany russia, japan, italy -- places around the world that are going through either major emancipation's, major political unification, other kinds of major social transformations at that exact time in the 1860's? how would an international --
transnational perspective make the reconstruction process look differently? dr. groce: i need to ask the panel to answer that rather than myself. dr. harlow: one thing that is significant. it was said over 30 years ago, writing a book called "nothing but freedom." what he says in that book is that the u.s., what is different about american emancipation is that freedom comes with citizenship rights and the vote. at least for men. and in other places, it comes with land or something like that, but that inclusion in the polity that all people were born in the united states would be part of the fabric of the country is something that is distinctive.
dr. groce: other questions? i take it that there are no other questions. thank you very much. let's give our panel a round of applause, please. [applause] >> you are watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span three follow us on twitter for information on her schedules and upcoming programs, and to keep up with the latest history news. >> this week on q&a our guest is two-time pulitzer prize winner david mccullough. he shares stories about his new book, the wright brothers. >> that was largely because their father always said stay
home and do that. you don't have to go to school. he knew held bright they were. wilbur was a genius. or was very bright, inventive, clever mechanically, but he doesn't have the reach of mind that wilbur had. they love music. they love to books -- loved books. catherine loved so walter scott. the brothers gave her a bust of sir walter scott. they were in a house in ohio with no running water, no electricity, and they are giving a bust of a great english literary giant to their sister for a birthday present.
there is a lot of hope in that. what i would like to get to know even more about was the sense of purpose they had. it sounds a combat on, but high purpose from a big idea. nothing was going to stop them. >> tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern and pacific on c-span's q&a. >> next, university of minnesota professor eric lee talks about asian immigration to the west coast. including the role of san francisco's angel island in the 20th century. she compares the experiences describing how asian immigrants had extensive back ground checks and longer holding times than in new york. this is about one hour and a half.