what is the dunning school interpretation of reconstruction
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what is the dunning school interpretation of reconstruction

what is the dunning school interpretation of reconstruction

It engaged in "distortion by exaggeration, by a lack of perspective, by superficial analysis, and by overemphasis," while ignoring "constructive accomplishments" and failing to acknowledge "men who transcended the greed" of the age. As a professor, he taught generations of scholars, many of … The act was therefore held unconstitutional. Great activity was at once displayed by the United States district attorneys throughout the South, and hundreds of indictments were brought in; but convictions were few. The other faction, alarmed at the prospect of almost certain defeat, availed itself of the opportunity presented by the providential advent of a circus in the neighborhood, and the posters announced that poll-tax receipts would be accepted for admission. The result was the overthrow of black government in that state. William Harris, author of The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man's Encounter with Liberty Early 1900s, W.E.B. "An Analysis of Some Reconstruction Attitudes,", This page was last edited on 9 January 2021, at 23:24. The Dunning interpretation of Reconstruction brought censure from the African-American community and the small cohort of black historians. "The Dark and Bloody Ground of Reconstruction Historiography,", Williams, T. Harry. By Louisiana, however, a new method was devised for exempting the whites from the effect of the property and intelligence tests. The state legislation which contributed to confirm white control included many ingenious and exaggerated applications of the gerrymander and the prescription of various electoral regulations that were designedly too intricate for the average negro intelligence. Because of these opportunities the resort to bulldozing and other violence steadily decreased. Led by historian William Dunning (Reconstruction, Political and Economic, 1907), this interpretation can be summarized as: “When the Civil War ended, the white South genuinely accepted the reality of military defeat, stood ready to do justice to the emancipated slaves, and desired above all a quick reintegration into the fabric of national life. John W. Burgess wrote that "a black skin means membership in a race of men which has never of itself succeeded in subjecting passion to reason." At the present day, in the same states, the negroes enjoy practically no political rights; the Republican party is but the shadow of a name; and the influence of the negroes in political affairs is nil. Hence miniature ballots of tissue paper were secretly prepared and distributed to trusted voters, who, folding as many, sometimes, as fifteen of the small tickets within one of the ordinary large tickets, passed the whole, without detection, into the box. The Dunning school still casts a shadow over America’s popular understanding of Reconstruction. Each of the states which had seceded from the Union had been made over" by the creation of a new political people, in which the freedmen constituted an important element, and the organization of a new government, in the working of which the participation of the blacks on equal terms with the whites was put under substantial guarantees. Adam Fairclough, a British historian whose expertise includes Reconstruction, summarized the Dunningite themes: All agreed that black suffrage had been a political blunder and that the Republican state governments in the South that rested upon black votes had been corrupt, extravagant, unrepresentative, and oppressive. He claimed that some of the more progressive southern historians continued to propose "that their race must bar Negroes from social and economic equality." They recognize the shabby aspects of the era: the corruption was real, the failures obvious, the tragedy undeniable. This was a case from Tennessee, in which a band of whites had taken a negro away from the officers of the law and maltreated him. [3] As a professor, he taught generations of scholars, many of whom expanded his views of the evils of Reconstruction. By the Fourteenth Amendment it is provided that if a state restricts the franchise her representation in Congress shall be proportionately reduced. The court held that, under the last three amendments to the Constitution, Congress was authorized to guarantee equality in civil rights against violation by a state through its officers or agents, but not against violation by private individuals. In South Carolina, the requirement that, with eight or more ballot boxes before him, the voter must select the proper one for each ballot, in order to insure its being counted, furnished an effective means of neutralizing the ignorant black vote; for though the negroes, unable to read the lettering on the boxes, might acquire, by proper coaching, the power to discriminate among them by their relative positions, a moment’s work by the whites in transposing the boxes would render useless an hour’s laborious instruction. A corollary of this idea that the negroes were Democrats was generally adopted later in the period, to the effect that, since there was practically no opposition to the democracy, the negroes had lost interest in politics. The weaker manifested a purpose to draw on the negroes for support, and began to expose some of the devices by which the blacks had been prevented from voting. As a result, the audience at the circus was notable in respect to numbers, but the negro vote at the election was insignificant. From 1875 to 1889 neither of the great parties was at any one time in effective control of both the presidency and the two houses of Congress. Dunning believed that allowing blacks to vote and hold office had been "a serious error". It is named for Columbia University professor William Archibald Dunning who taught many of its followers. If, as one historian has suggested, Dunning viewed Reconstruction as "a mob run riot," the unruly crowd was biracial and bipartisan. At its core, the Dunning school of thought is a period of racist history which affected historical interpretation and methodologies. Side by side with the removal of the preventives, the Southern whites had made enormous positive advances in the suppression of the other race. Moreover, Du Bois pointedly remarked on the prevailing racial bias of the historical inquiry up to that moment, “One fact and one alone explains the attitude of most recent writers toward Reconstruction; they cannot conceive of Negroes as men.” Du Bois’s indictment s… Though the state of affairs in the South was for years a party issue of the first magnitude, the legislative deadlock had for its general result a policy of non-interference by the national government, and the whites were left to work out in their own way the ends they had in view. While the work was largely ignored by historians at the time, later revisionist scholars lauded DuBois's analysis.[12]. Then, because the number of ballots exceeded the number of voters as indicated by the polling list, it became necessary, under the law, for the excess to be drawn out by a blindfolded man before the count began. Mississippi's bold and undisguised attack on negro suffrage excited much attention. Claude Bowers, The Tragic Era (1929). The Dunning School: Historians, Race And The Meaning Of Reconstruction: John Smith: 9780813142258: Books - Amazon.ca Through the operation of these various motives, successive and simultaneous, the completion of the reconstruction showed the following situation: (1) the negroes were in the enjoyment of equal political rights with the whites; (2) the Republican party was in vigorous life in all the Southern states, and in firm control of many of them; and (3) the negroes exercised an influence in political affairs out of all relation to their intelligence or property, and, since so many of the whites were disfranchised, excessive even in proportion to their numbers. For Howard K. Beale, assessing Reconstruction historiography in 1940, the unquestioning use of the words “ carpetbaggers ” and “ scalawags, ” for example, demonstrated that historians as a whole had accepted the biased writing of Reconstruction history embodied by the Dunning school, and that the new revisionists had not yet become “ classics ” in the way their predecessors had. He supported the idea that the South had been ruined by Reconstruction. Dunning's antipathy in Reconstruction is generously heaped on all groups, regardless of race, color, creed, or sectional origins. He then declared that he had not attempted to do so, and with that he subscribed to virtually all of the views that had been set forth by the students of Dunning. At the acme of the development undoubtedly stood the tissue ballot. Open bribery on a large scale was too common to excite comment. "Was the Grant of Black Suffrage a Political Error? During the Hayes administration the latter laws were the subject of a prolonged and violent contest between the Democratic houses and the Republican President. It was named after Columbia University professor William Archibald Dunning (1857-1922), whose works and teachings in the early 20th century on Reconstruction were influential. In putting his criticism in proper context, Stampp wrote: Few revisionists would claim that the Dunning interpretation of reconstruction is a pure fabrication. Her constitution was so revised as to provide that, to be a qualified elector, a citizen must produce evidence of having paid his taxes (including a poll tax) for the past two years, and must, in addition, “be able to read any section in the constitution of this state, or … be able to understand the same when read to him, or give a reasonable interpretation thereof.” Much might be said in favor of such an alternative intelligence qualification in the abstract: The mere ability to read is far from conclusive of intellectual capacity. 1.) In practice, the white must be stupid indeed who cannot satisfy the official demand for a “reasonable interpretation,” while the negro who can satisfy it must be a miracle of brilliancy. Not till the box was opened were the tissue tickets discovered. Five years later South Carolina dealt no less unkindly with Mr. Lamar, who at the same time with Mr. Blaine had dipped a little into prophecy on the other side. W.E.B. Meanwhile, the wholesale removal of political disabilities by Congress in 1872 brought many of the old and respected Southern politicians again into public life, with a corresponding improvement in the quality of Democratic leadership. Foner argued that one of the greatest achievements of the reconstruction period was the development of an "empowered, activist nation-state" which was determined to protect the rights of all its citizens. This decision finally disposed of the theory that the failure of a state to protect the negroes in their equal rights could be regarded as a positive denial of such rights, and hence could justify the United States in interfering. The Dunning School Historians, Race, and the Meaning of Reconstruction. The permanence of white dominion in the South seemed, in view of the past, to depend as much on the exclusion of the Republicans from power at Washington as on the maintenance of white power at the state capitals. This interpretation of Reconstruction placed it firmly in the category of historical blunder. This contrast suggests what has been involved in the undoing of reconstruction. The situation had arisen which Mr. Lamar had foreseen, but the result was as far as possible from fulfilling his prediction. A bill was brought in that was designed to make real the federal control of elections. 2.) This suggests at once the enormous advantage gained by securing control of the state government. 2.) These different explanations have of course all been current at all times since reconstruction was completed, and have embodied different degrees of plausibility and truth in different places. Known as the Dunning School, these students wrote the first generation of state studies on the Reconstruction -- volumes that generally sympathized with white southerners, interpreted radical Reconstruction as a mean-spirited usurpation of federal power, and cast the Republican Party as a coalition of carpetbaggers, freedmen, scalawags, and former Unionists. Beale indicated other southern historians' making more positive contributions were "southern liberals" such as C. Vann Woodward and Francis Simkins.[7]. William A Dunning Explains the Failure of Reconstruction in Terms of Corruption and Failure of Governments (1901) The leading motive of the reconstruction had been, at the inception of the process, to insure to the freedmen an effective protection of their civil rights,—of life, liberty, and property. Read and interpret the Dunning article (Note: you can use Wikipedia or any of the YouTube videos that feature Eric Foner to help you understand the Dunning School interpretation of Reconstruction). The second period, lasting till 1890, presented conditions so different from the first as entirely to transform the methods by which the process was continued. Historian Kenneth M. Stampp was one of the leaders of the revisionist movement regarding reconstruction, which mounted a successful attack on Dunning's racially biased narrative. It was part of the edifice of the Jim Crow System. We want to hear what you think about this article. The Dunning school, named for the Columbia University professor William Archibald Dunning, has not always been held in such low esteem. By the elections of 1888, however, the Republicans secured not only the presidency, but also a majority in each house of Congress. Already, however, the courts had manifested a disposition to question the constitutionality of the most drastic provisions of the earlier Enforcement Acts. The tendency in this direction was greatly promoted by conditions within the Republican party itself. It penetrated gradually to the consciousness of the most brutal white politicians that the whipping or murder of a negro, no matter for what cause, was likely to become at once the occasion of a great outcry at the North, while by an unobtrusive manipulation of the balloting or the count very encouraging results could be obtained with little or no commotion. They understood that the radical Republicans were not all selfless patriots, and that southern white men were not all Negro-hating rebels. More deference began to be paid to the Northern sentiment hostile to the Grant administration which had been revealed in the presidential campaign of 1872, and the policy of the Southern whites was directed especially so as to bring odium upon the use of the military forces in the states yet to be wrested from black control. Nimene added it Sep 13, 2013. "[5], Even James Wilford Garner's Reconstruction in Mississippi, regarded by W. E. B. The whites, once in control of the state electoral machinery, readily devised means of evading or neutralizing the influence of the federal officers. If nothing else the Dunning School is important to know and at least understand just because it was dominant for so long and was what people were taught in school up until relatively recently. [4] Novick provided examples of the style of the Dunning School approach when he wrote: James Ford Rhodes, citing [Louis] Agassiz, said that "what the whole country has only learned through years of costly and bitter experience was known to this leader of scientific thought before we ventured on the policy of trying to make negroes [sic] intelligent by legislative acts." The traditional or Dunning School of Reconstruction was not just an interpretation of history. In the first period, that of the Ku Klux and the Mississippi plan, it was generally maintained by the whites that the black vote was not suppressed, and that there was no political motive behind the disturbances that occurred. Edited by John David Smith and J. Vincent Lowery. The statute books of the states, especially of those in which negro rule had lasted the longest, abounded in provisions for partisan—that is, race—advantage. The Dunning school still casts a shadow over America’s popular understanding of Reconstruction. The hereditary principle was introduced into the franchise by the provision that the right to vote should belong, regardless of education or property, to every one whose father or grandfather possessed the right on January 1, 1867. While these were at their height the Republican party was ousted from control in five of the old rebel states,—Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, and Virginia. When the Supreme Court of the United States was required to consider the new clause of Mississippi's constitution, it adopted the views of the convention on these points, and sustained the validity of the enactment. In view of the questions which have been raised by our lately established relations with other races, it seems most improbable that the historian will soon, or ever, have to record a reversal of the conditions which this process has established. For a long time it was an intellectual straitjacket for much of the white South, and historians have a lot to answer for in helping to propagate a racist system in this country.[2]. He taught at the University of Georgia for sixty years, founded the Southern Historical Association, and edited the Georgia Historical Quarterly for fifty years, so he had many avenues of influence. Their generalized adoption of deprecatory terms such as scalawags for southern white Republicans and carpetbaggers for northerners who worked and settled in the South, have persisted in historical works. Muller, Philip R. "Look Back Without Anger: A Reappraisal of William A. Dunning". Before the last state was restored to the Union the process was well under way through which the resumption of control by the whites was to be effected. The Dunning School viewpoint favored conservative elements in the south (the Redeemers, plantation owners and former Confederates) and disparaged Radical Republicans who favored civil rights for former slaves. As to the third element, the disproportionate political influence of the blacks, a change had been effected, and their power had been so reduced as to correspond much more closely to their general social significance. The views of the Dunning School dominated scholarly and popular depictions of the era from about 1900 to the 1930s. They are not, however, chiefly characterized by their hostility toward ethnic groups. Since the action of South Carolina, two other states, Louisiana and North Carolina, have excluded the blacks from the suffrage by analogous constitutional amendments; and in two others still, Alabama and Virginia, conventions are considering the subject as this article goes to press (August, 1901). The deadlock of thirteen years was broken, and at once an effort was made to resume the policy of the Enforcement Acts. The result is not hard to guess. And by the time the process was complete, a very important, if not the most important part had been played by the desire and the purpose to secure to the Republican party the permanent control of several Southern states in which hitherto such a political organization had been unknown. “Whenever,” he said,—“and the time is not far distant,—political issues arise which divide the white men of the South, the negro will divide, too … The white race, divided politically, will want him to divide.” Incidentally to the conditions which produced the Populist party, the whites of South Carolina, in the years succeeding 1890, became divided into two intensely hostile factions. For William A. Dunning, blacks "had no pride of race and no aspiration or ideals save to be like whites." Their aspirations, if mentioned at all, were ridiculed, and their role in shaping the course of events during Reconstruction ignored. As a consequence, no partisan legislation could be enacted. The operations of the registration laws and Negro suffrage in the South. There was in those days no prescription of uniformity in size and general character of the ballots. [11], In 1935, W. E. B. DuBois attacked the premises of the Dunning School in Black Reconstruction, setting forth ideas such as the active agency of blacks in the era, that the struggle over control of black labor was central to the politics of the era, and that Reconstruction was a time of great promise and many accomplishments, the overthrow of which was a tragic defeat for democracy. Under all the circumstances, therefore, extralegal devices had still to be used in the “black belt.”. By Lyndsey Collins, with comments by Adrianna Abreu and Jena Viviano [1] All history is socially constructed; the same event or time period can be interpreted in various ways depending on the individual or group. “When the federal government provided every need, African Americans remained childlike and helpless.” b.) As the effect of this first act seemed to the disorders of the South, Congress passed in the following year a more drastic law. And with it the Republican party faded into insignificance. The Democrats put great stress on the terror and intimidation of the whites and the violation of freemen’s rights due to the presence of federal officials at the polls, and of federal troops near them. Although "Dunningite" historians did not necessarily endorse those extralegal methods, they did tend to palliate them. In the presidential election of 1884 the total vote in South Carolina was, in round numbers, 91,000, as compared with 182,000 in 1876. William Dunning and John W. Burgess led the first group to offer a coherent and structured argument. Adam Fairclough, a British historian whose expertise includes Reconstruction, summarized the Dunningite themes: He supported the idea that the South had been ruined by Reconstruction. On the assumption, then, that the white state governments in the South were unwilling, and the black governments were unable, to protect the negro in his rights, Congress inaugurated the policy of the “Force Acts.” The primary aim was to protect the right to vote, but ultimately the purely civil rights, and even the so called “social rights,” were included in the legislation. I think that it is important to look closely at Dunning’s two works on Reconstruction to see how they helped shape how Americans thought about Reconstruction well into the 1960s.. One of Dunning’s influential books was Reconstruction, … By acts of 1871 and 1872, every polling place, in any election for Congressmen, might be manned by officials appointed by the federal courts, with extensive powers for the detection of fraud, and with authority to employ the federal troops in the repression of violence. The Initial Interpretation of Reconstruction. The old acts for this purpose were, indeed, still on the statute book, but their operation was farcical; the new project, while maintaining the general lines of the old, would have imposed serious restraints on the influences that repressed the negro vote, and would have infused some vitality into the moribund Republican party in the South. But every advantage was taken of legal technicalities; in the regions where the Ku Klux were strong, juries and witnesses were almost invariably influenced by sympathy or terror to favor the accused; and the huge disproportion between the number of arrests and the number of convictions was skillfully employed to sustain the claim that the federal officers were using the law as the cover for a systematic intimidation and oppression of the whites. Grant is not their idea of a model President, nor are the Southern carpetbag governments worthy of their unqualified praise. He supported the idea that the South had been hurt by Reconstruction and that American values had been trampled by the use of the U.S. Army to control state politics. The Undoing of Reconstruction The historian who gave his name to the Dunning School, a group of scholars who decried Reconstruction, explained his objections to … It backed social inequality by providing “scientific”, “sound”, and “empirical” research that supported segregation and discrimination. Known as the Dunning School, these students wrote the first generation of state studies on the Reconstruction -- volumes that generally sympathized with white southerners, interpreted radical Reconstruction as a mean-spirited usurpation of federal power, and cast the Republican Party as a coalition of carpetbaggers, freedmen, scalawags, and former Unionists.

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