The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement

University of Chicago Press
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Winner of the 2005 J. David Greenstone Book Award from the Politics and History section of the American Political Science Association. Winner of the 2005 Ralph J. Bunche Award of the American Political Science Association
Winner of the 2005 V.O. Key, Jr. Award of the Southern Political Science Association
The Reconstruction era marked a huge political leap for African Americans, who rapidly went from the status of slaves to voters and officeholders. Yet this hard-won progress lasted only a few decades. Ultimately a "second reconstruction"—associated with the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act—became necessary.

How did the first reconstruction fail so utterly, setting the stage for the complete disenfranchisement of Southern black voters, and why did the second succeed? These are among the questions Richard M. Valelly answers in this fascinating history. The fate of black enfranchisement, he argues, has been closely intertwined with the strengths and constraints of our political institutions. Valelly shows how effective biracial coalitions have been the key to success and incisively traces how and why political parties and the national courts either rewarded or discouraged the formation of coalitions.

Revamping our understanding of American race relations, The Two Reconstructions brilliantly explains a puzzle that lies at the heart of America’s development as a political democracy.
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About the author

Richard M. Valelly is professor of political science at Swarthmore College. He is author of Radicalism in the States, published by the University of Chicago Press, and his essays have appeared in the New Republic and the American Prospect.
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Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Oct 2, 2009
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Pages
348
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ISBN
9780226845272
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / General
Political Science / General
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This content is DRM protected.
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American politics seems to grow more contentious and complicated by the day, and whether American democracy works well is hotly debated. Amidst all this roiling partisan argument and confusing claims and counterclaims, there has never been a greater need for an impartial primer on the basics of the American political system. This Very Short Introduction gives readers a concise, accessible, and sophisticated overview of the vital elements of American democracy, emphasizing both how these elements function, their historical origins, and how they have evolved into their present forms. Richard Valelly covers all facets of America's political system: the bicameral Congress and the place of the filibuster, the legislative-executive process, the role of the Supreme Court, political parties and democratic choice, bureaucracy, the partisan revival, and the political economy. He offers as well an original analysis of the evolution of the American presidency and a fascinating chapter on the effects of public polling on political decision-making and voter representation. Valelly shows that the American political system is, and always has been, very much a work in progress--unfolding within, and also constantly updating, an eighteenth-century constitutional framework. In a refreshingly balanced and judicious assessment, he explores the strengths of American democracy while candidly acknowledging both gaps in representation and the increasing income inequality have sparked protest and intense public discussion. Finally, Valelly considers the remarkable persistence, for more than two centuries, of the basic constitutional forms established in 1787, despite the dramatic social changes that have reshaped virtually all aspects of American life. For anyone wishing to understand the nuts and bolts of how our political system works--and sometimes fails to work--this Very Short Introduction is the very best place to start. About the Series: Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.
C. Vann Woodward, who died in 1999 at the age of 91, was America's most eminent Southern historian, the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Mary Chestnut's Civil War and a Bancroft Prize for The Origins of the New South. Now, to honor his long and truly distinguished career, Oxford is pleased to publish this special commemorative edition of Woodward's most influential work, The Strange Career of Jim Crow. The Strange Career of Jim Crow is one of the great works of Southern history. Indeed, the book actually helped shape that history. Published in 1955, a year after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ordered schools desegregated, Strange Career was cited so often to counter arguments for segregation that Martin Luther King, Jr. called it "the historical Bible of the civil rights movement." The book offers a clear and illuminating analysis of the history of Jim Crow laws, presenting evidence that segregation in the South dated only to the 1890s. Woodward convincingly shows that, even under slavery, the two races had not been divided as they were under the Jim Crow laws of the 1890s. In fact, during Reconstruction, there was considerable economic and political mixing of the races. The segregating of the races was a relative newcomer to the region. Hailed as one of the top 100 nonfiction works of the twentieth century, The Strange Career of Jim Crow has sold almost a million copies and remains, in the words of David Herbert Donald, "a landmark in the history of American race relations."
The United States routinely has one of the lowest voter turnout rates of any developed democracy in the world. That rate is also among the most internally diverse, since the federal structure allows state-level variations in voting institutions that have had—and continue to have—sizable local effects. But are expansive institutional efforts like mail-in registration, longer poll hours, and “no-excuse” absentee voting uniformly effective in improving voter turnout across states?

With How the States Shaped the Nation, Melanie Jean Springer places contemporary reforms in historical context and systematically explores how state electoral institutions have been instrumental in shaping voting behavior throughout the twentieth century. Although reformers often assume that more convenient voting procedures will produce equivalent effects wherever they are implemented, Springer reveals that this is not the case. In fact, convenience-voting methods have had almost no effect in the southern states where turnout rates are lowest. In contrast, the adverse effects associated with restrictive institutions like poll taxes and literacy tests have been persistent and dramatic. Ultimately, Springer argues, no single institutional fix will uniformly resolve problems of low or unequal participation. If we want to reliably increase national voter turnout rates, we must explore how states’ voting histories differ and better understand the role of political and geographical context in shaping institutional effects.
Scholars working in or sympathetic to American political development (APD) share a commitment to accurately understanding the history of American politics - and thus they question stylized facts about America's political evolution. Like other approaches to American politics, APD prizes analytical rigor, data collection, the development and testing of theory, and the generation of provocative hypotheses. Much APD scholarship indeed overlaps with the American politics subfield and its many well developed literatures on specific institutions or processes (for example Congress, judicial politics, or party competition), specific policy domains (welfare policy, immigration), the foundations of (in)equality in American politics (the distribution of wealth and income, race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexual and gender orientation), public law, and governance and representation. What distinguishes APD is careful, systematic thought about the ways that political processes, civic ideals, the political construction of social divisions, patterns of identity formation, the making and implementation of public policies, contestation over (and via) the Constitution, and other formal and informal institutions and processes evolve over time - and whether (and how) they alter, compromise, or sustain the American liberal democratic regime. APD scholars identify, in short, the histories that constitute American politics. They ask: what familiar or unfamiliar elements of the American past illuminate the present? Are contemporary phenomena that appear new or surprising prefigured in ways that an APD approach can bring to the fore? If a contemporary phenomenon is unprecedented then how might an accurate understanding of the evolution of American politics unlock its significance? Featuring contributions from leading academics in the field, The Oxford Handbook of American Political Development provides an authoritative and accessible analysis of the study of American political development.
As Democrats and Republicans continue to vie for political advantage, Congress remains paralyzed by partisan conflict. That the last two decades have seen some of the least productive Congresses in recent history is usually explained by the growing ideological gulf between the parties, but this explanation misses another fundamental factor influencing the dynamic. In contrast to politics through most of the twentieth century, the contemporary Democratic and Republican parties compete for control of Congress at relative parity, and this has dramatically changed the parties’ incentives and strategies in ways that have driven the contentious partisanship characteristic of contemporary American politics.

With Insecure Majorities, Frances E. Lee offers a controversial new perspective on the rise of congressional party conflict, showing how the shift in competitive circumstances has had a profound impact on how Democrats and Republicans interact. For nearly half a century, Democrats were the majority party, usually maintaining control of the presidency, the House, and the Senate. Republicans did not stand much chance of winning majority status, and Democrats could not conceive of losing it. Under such uncompetitive conditions, scant collective action was exerted by either party toward building or preserving a majority. Beginning in the 1980s, that changed, and most elections since have offered the prospect of a change of party control. Lee shows, through an impressive range of interviews and analysis, how competition for control of the government drives members of both parties to participate in actions that promote their own party’s image and undercut that of the opposition, including the perpetual hunt for issues that can score political points by putting the opposing party on the wrong side of public opinion. More often than not, this strategy stands in the way of productive bipartisan cooperation—and it is also unlikely to change as long as control of the government remains within reach for both parties.
American politics seems to grow more contentious and complicated by the day, and whether American democracy works well is hotly debated. Amidst all this roiling partisan argument and confusing claims and counterclaims, there has never been a greater need for an impartial primer on the basics of the American political system. This Very Short Introduction gives readers a concise, accessible, and sophisticated overview of the vital elements of American democracy, emphasizing both how these elements function, their historical origins, and how they have evolved into their present forms. Richard Valelly covers all facets of America's political system: the bicameral Congress and the place of the filibuster, the legislative-executive process, the role of the Supreme Court, political parties and democratic choice, bureaucracy, the partisan revival, and the political economy. He offers as well an original analysis of the evolution of the American presidency and a fascinating chapter on the effects of public polling on political decision-making and voter representation. Valelly shows that the American political system is, and always has been, very much a work in progress--unfolding within, and also constantly updating, an eighteenth-century constitutional framework. In a refreshingly balanced and judicious assessment, he explores the strengths of American democracy while candidly acknowledging both gaps in representation and the increasing income inequality have sparked protest and intense public discussion. Finally, Valelly considers the remarkable persistence, for more than two centuries, of the basic constitutional forms established in 1787, despite the dramatic social changes that have reshaped virtually all aspects of American life. For anyone wishing to understand the nuts and bolts of how our political system works--and sometimes fails to work--this Very Short Introduction is the very best place to start. About the Series: Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.
American politics seems to grow more contentious and complicated by the day, and whether American democracy works well is hotly debated. Amidst all this roiling partisan argument and confusing claims and counterclaims, there has never been a greater need for an impartial primer on the basics of the American political system. This Very Short Introduction gives readers a concise, accessible, and sophisticated overview of the vital elements of American democracy, emphasizing both how these elements function, their historical origins, and how they have evolved into their present forms. Richard Valelly covers all facets of America's political system: the bicameral Congress and the place of the filibuster, the legislative-executive process, the role of the Supreme Court, political parties and democratic choice, bureaucracy, the partisan revival, and the political economy. He offers as well an original analysis of the evolution of the American presidency and a fascinating chapter on the effects of public polling on political decision-making and voter representation. Valelly shows that the American political system is, and always has been, very much a work in progress--unfolding within, and also constantly updating, an eighteenth-century constitutional framework. In a refreshingly balanced and judicious assessment, he explores the strengths of American democracy while candidly acknowledging both gaps in representation and the increasing income inequality have sparked protest and intense public discussion. Finally, Valelly considers the remarkable persistence, for more than two centuries, of the basic constitutional forms established in 1787, despite the dramatic social changes that have reshaped virtually all aspects of American life. For anyone wishing to understand the nuts and bolts of how our political system works--and sometimes fails to work--this Very Short Introduction is the very best place to start. About the Series: Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.
Scholars working in or sympathetic to American political development (APD) share a commitment to accurately understanding the history of American politics - and thus they question stylized facts about America's political evolution. Like other approaches to American politics, APD prizes analytical rigor, data collection, the development and testing of theory, and the generation of provocative hypotheses. Much APD scholarship indeed overlaps with the American politics subfield and its many well developed literatures on specific institutions or processes (for example Congress, judicial politics, or party competition), specific policy domains (welfare policy, immigration), the foundations of (in)equality in American politics (the distribution of wealth and income, race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexual and gender orientation), public law, and governance and representation. What distinguishes APD is careful, systematic thought about the ways that political processes, civic ideals, the political construction of social divisions, patterns of identity formation, the making and implementation of public policies, contestation over (and via) the Constitution, and other formal and informal institutions and processes evolve over time - and whether (and how) they alter, compromise, or sustain the American liberal democratic regime. APD scholars identify, in short, the histories that constitute American politics. They ask: what familiar or unfamiliar elements of the American past illuminate the present? Are contemporary phenomena that appear new or surprising prefigured in ways that an APD approach can bring to the fore? If a contemporary phenomenon is unprecedented then how might an accurate understanding of the evolution of American politics unlock its significance? Featuring contributions from leading academics in the field, The Oxford Handbook of American Political Development provides an authoritative and accessible analysis of the study of American political development.
Scholars working in or sympathetic to American political development (APD) share a commitment to accurately understanding the history of American politics - and thus they question stylized facts about America's political evolution. Like other approaches to American politics, APD prizes analytical rigor, data collection, the development and testing of theory, and the generation of provocative hypotheses. Much APD scholarship indeed overlaps with the American politics subfield and its many well developed literatures on specific institutions or processes (for example Congress, judicial politics, or party competition), specific policy domains (welfare policy, immigration), the foundations of (in)equality in American politics (the distribution of wealth and income, race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexual and gender orientation), public law, and governance and representation. What distinguishes APD is careful, systematic thought about the ways that political processes, civic ideals, the political construction of social divisions, patterns of identity formation, the making and implementation of public policies, contestation over (and via) the Constitution, and other formal and informal institutions and processes evolve over time - and whether (and how) they alter, compromise, or sustain the American liberal democratic regime. APD scholars identify, in short, the histories that constitute American politics. They ask: what familiar or unfamiliar elements of the American past illuminate the present? Are contemporary phenomena that appear new or surprising prefigured in ways that an APD approach can bring to the fore? If a contemporary phenomenon is unprecedented then how might an accurate understanding of the evolution of American politics unlock its significance? Featuring contributions from leading academics in the field, The Oxford Handbook of American Political Development provides an authoritative and accessible analysis of the study of American political development.
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