Reconstruction

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2: Experiments in Local Government

The freedmen and Radical Republicans who managed to win power in local governments during Reconstruction.

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Episode Notes

In the second episode of Reconstruction, Rebecca Onion and Jamelle Bouie explore how town and county politics unfolded in the South after the war. They discuss the lives of two Northern men who gained local office, Tunis Campbell, a black man who held a variety of positions in Georgia, and Albert T. Morgan, a white Radical Republican who served as a sheriff and state legislator in Mississippi.

Their guest is Ed Ayers, president emeritus of the University of Richmond and author of The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America.

Supplementary reading for this episode:
• Tunis Campbell, Sufferings of the Reverend T.G. Campbell and His Family, in Georgia, via archive.org.
• Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South From Slavery to the Great Migration, Chapter 5 (“A Society Turned Bottomside Up”).
• Albert T. Morgan, Yazoo: Or, on the Picket Line of Freedom in the South: A Personal Narrative.
An excerpt from Thavolia Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household.

About the Show

The era of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War was our best chance to build an American democracy grounded in racial equality. Its failure helps explain why race, “states’ rights,” and the legacy of the Confederacy remain central themes in our politics today.

Don’t miss Rebecca and Jamelle’s previous podcast, The History of American Slavery.

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