More than any other scholar, Eric Foner has influenced our understanding of America's history. Now, making brilliant use of extraordinary evidence, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian once again reconfigures the national saga of American slavery and freedom.
A deeply entrenched institution, slavery lived on legally and commercially even in the northern states that had abolished it after the American Revolution. Slaves could be found in the streets of New York well after abolition, traveling with owners doing business with the city's major banks, merchants, and manufacturers. New York was also home to the North’s largest free black community, making it a magnet for fugitive slaves seeking refuge. Slave catchers and gangs of kidnappers roamed the city, seizing free blacks, often children, and sending them south to slavery.
To protect fugitives and fight kidnappings, the city's free blacks worked with white abolitionists to organize the New York Vigilance Committee in 1835. In the 1840s vigilance committees proliferated throughout the North and began collaborating to dispatch fugitive slaves from the upper South, Washington, and Baltimore, through Philadelphia and New York, to Albany, Syracuse, and Canada. These networks of antislavery resistance, centered on New York City, became known as the underground railroad. Forced to operate in secrecy by hostile laws, courts, and politicians, the city’s underground-railroad agents helped more than 3,000 fugitive slaves reach freedom between 1830 and 1860. Until now, their stories have remained largely unknown, their significance little understood.
Building on fresh evidence—including a detailed record of slave escapes secretly kept by Sydney Howard Gay, one of the key organizers in New York—Foner elevates the underground railroad from folklore to sweeping history. The story is inspiring—full of memorable characters making their first appearance on the historical stage—and significant—the controversy over fugitive slaves inflamed the sectional crisis of the 1850s. It eventually took a civil war to destroy American slavery, but here at last is the story of the courageous effort to fight slavery by "practical abolition," person by person, family by family.
In Forever Free, Eric Foner overturns numerous assumptions growing out of the traditional understanding of the period, which is based almost exclusively on white sources and shaped by (often unconscious) racism. He presents the period as a time of determination, especially on the part of recently emancipated black Americans, to put into effect the principles of equal rights and citizenship for all.
Drawing on a wide range of long-neglected documents, he places a new emphasis on the centrality of the black experience to an understanding of the era. We see African Americans as active agents in overthrowing slavery, in helping win the Civil War, and–even more actively–in shaping Reconstruction and creating a legacy long obscured and misunderstood. Foner makes clear how, by war’s end, freed slaves in the South built on networks of church and family in order to exercise their right of suffrage as well as gain access to education, land, and employment.
He shows us that the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and renewed acts of racial violence were retaliation for the progress made by blacks soon after the war. He refutes lingering misconceptions about Reconstruction, including the attribution of its ills to corrupt African American politicians and “carpetbaggers,” and connects it to the movements for civil rights and racial justice.
Joshua Brown’s illustrated commentary on the era’s graphic art and photographs complements the narrative. He offers a unique portrait of how Americans envisioned their world and time.
Forever Free is an essential contribution to our understanding of the events that fundamentally reshaped American life after the Civil War–a persuasive reading of history that transforms our sense of the era from a time of failure and despair to a threshold of hope and achievement.
According to the 2000 census, more than 10% of U.S. residents were foreign born; together with their American-born children, this group constitutes one fifth of the nation's population. What does this mass immigration mean for America? Leading immigration studies scholar, Nancy Foner, answers this question in her study of comparative immigration. Drawing on the rich history of American immigrants and current statistical and ethnographic data, In a New Land compares today’s new immigrants with the past influxes of Europeans to the United States and across cities and regions within the United States. Foner looks at immigration across nation-states, and over different periods of time, offering a comprehensive assessment and analysis.
This original approach to the study of recent U.S. immigration focuses on race and ethnicity, gender, and transnational connections. Centering her analysis on the groups that have come through and significantly shaped New York City, Foner compares today’s Latin American, Asian, and Caribbean newcomers with eastern and southern European immigrants a century ago and with immigrants in other major U.S. cities. Looking beyond the United States, Foner compares West Indian immigrants in New York with those in London. And, more generally, the book views the process of immigrants’ integration in New York against other recent immigrant destinations in Europe.
Drawing on a wealth of historical and contemporary research, and written in a clear and lively style, In a New Land provides fresh insights into the dynamics of immigration today and the implications for where we are headed in the future.
In this updated edition of the abridged Reconstruction, Eric Foner redefines how the post-Civil War period was viewed.
Reconstruction chronicles the way in which Americans—black and white—responded to the unprecedented changes unleashed by the war and the end of slavery. It addresses the quest of emancipated slaves searching for economic autonomy and equal citizenship, and describes the remodeling of Southern society, the evolution of racial attitudes and patterns of race relations, and the emergence of a national state possessing vastly expanded authority and committed, for a time, to the principle of equal rights for all Americans.
This "masterful treatment of one of the most complex periods of American history" (New Republic) remains the standard work on the wrenching post-Civil War period—an era whose legacy still reverberates in the United States today.
In three conceptually wide-ranging and provocative essays, the authors assess the meaning of freedom for enslaved and free Americans in the decades before and after the Civil War. They ask important and challenging questions: How did slaves and freedpeople respond to the promise and reality of emancipation? How committed were white southerners to the principle of racial subjugation? And in what ways can we best interpret the actions of enslaved and free Americans during slavery and Reconstruction? Collectively, these essays offer fresh approaches to questions of local political power, the determinants of individual choices, and the discourse that shaped and defined the history of black freedom.
Written by three prominent historians of the period, Slavery’s Ghost forces readers to think critically about the way we study the past, the depth of racial prejudice, and how African Americans won and lost their freedom in nineteenth-century America.
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