Get access to over 650,000 titles
About This Book
A New York Times Notable Book: A “stirring” and “eye-opening” history of the Reconstruction era’s forgotten heroes from the award-winning author ( The New York Times Book Review ).
The years following the Civil War were some of the most progressive and precarious in United States history. Under the terms of congressional Reconstruction, newly emancipated African American men began to vote—and win elections. But the more power they gained, the more bitter and violent a backlash they faced. In this compelling history, Pulitzer Prize finalist Philip Dray shines a light on the first black members of Congress.
We meet men like Hiram Revels of Mississippi, who in 1870 took the congressional seat once held by Jefferson Davis; Robert Smalls of South Carolina, the Civil War hero who had stolen a Confederate vessel and delivered it to the Union navy; and Robert Brown Elliott, who bested the former Confederate vice president in a stormy debate on the House floor. Often neglected by standard histories of the period, these individuals—some of whom were formerly enslaved—played a critical role in the fight for public education, equal rights, land distribution, and more.
Drawing on archival documents, contemporary newspaper coverage, and congressional records, Dray covers the fraught period between the Emancipation Proclamation and Jim Crow, following these trailblazing politicians in their effort to realize the promise of a new nation.
“Dray casts fresh light on the positive aspects of Reconstruction and powerfully dramatizes its negative side. His well-researched book is both exhilarating and disturbing.” — The New York Times Book Review
“ Capitol Men is an excellent choice for both newcomers to the Reconstruction saga and those already informed about the period.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Dray is an engaging writer with an eye for the dramatic incident and an ability to draw out its broader significance and relevance to our own times.” — The Nation