The Literature of Reconstruction: Not in Plain Black and White
As Brook Thomas argues in The Literature of Reconstruction, “the problems Reconstruction raised did not have simple solutions, in part because there was no agreement about what the goals of Reconstruction were.” This rejection of simple narrative is what defines Mr. Thomas’ book, whose subtitle is Not in Plain Black and White. He continually reminds the reader, in both his own words and the words of authors of the time period, that to assume a simple black and white racial divide was the only issue facing Reconstruction-era America is to do to a disservice to the period. Rather than trying to identify any one issue as the defining issue of the era, the book, through close examination of literature of the time period, instead examines the way in which all the issues of the era interacted with each other, creating a necessarily complicated picture. Mr. Thomas’ primary achievement is to supplement political history, which tends toward a national scope, with social history, which tends to focus more on local history. This approach forces the reader to see the nation as a collection of individuals with different opinions, rather than a monolithic entity always in agreement with itself.
John Hopkins University Press