. the Dunning School’s views regarding race reflected prevailing sentiments of the time. He supported the idea that the South had been ruined by Reconstruction. This last motive had a plausible and widely accepted justification in the view that the rights of the negro and the “results of the war” in general would be secure only if the national government should remain indefinitely in Republican hands, and that therefore the strengthening of the party was a primary dictate of patriotism. During the Hayes administration the latter laws were the subject of a prolonged and violent contest between the Democratic houses and the Republican President. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com. But in Louisiana and South Carolina the radical factions retained power exclusively through the presence of the troops, who were employed in the former state to reconstitute both the legislature and the executive at the bidding of one of the claimants of the gubernatorial office. 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. 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. 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. Early 1900s, W.E.B. 2.) Through the vigorous policy thus instituted by the national government the movement toward the resumption of control by the whites in the South met with a marked though temporary check.The number of convictions obtained under the Ku Klux Act was not large, and President Grant resorted in but a single instance—that of certain counties in South Carolina, in the autumn of 1871—to the extraordinary powers conferred upon him. The very extraordinary proceedings in New Orleans greatly emphasized the unfavorable feeling at the North toward “governments resting on bayonets;” and when, upon the approach of the state election of 1875 in Mississippi, the radical governor applied for troops to preserve order, President Grant rather tartly refused to furnish them. "[5], Even James Wilford Garner's Reconstruction in Mississippi, regarded by W. E. B. The Republicans insisted that these officials and troops were essential to enable the negroes to vote and to have their votes counted. But if a party of white men, with ropes conspicuous on their saddlebows, rode up to a polling place and announced that hanging would begin in fifteen minutes, though without any more definite reference to anybody, and a group of blacks who had assembled to vote heard the remark and promptly disappeared, votes were lost, but a conviction on a charge of intimidation was difficult. But exploitation of the poverty, ignorance, credulity, and general childishness of the blacks was supplemented, on occasion, by deliberate and high-handed fraud. And he added a few observations of his own, such as "education soon lost its novelty for most of the Negroes"; they would "spend their last piece of money for a drink of whisky"; and, being "by nature highly emotional and excitable…, they carried their religious exercises to extreme lengths. They are not, however, chiefly characterized by their hostility toward ethnic groups. The extravagance and corruption of the state administration had become so intolerable to the whites that questionable means of terminating it were admitted by even the most honorable without question. But the peculiar form of this particular provision was confessedly adopted, not from any consideration of its abstract excellence, but in order to vest in the election officers the power to disfranchise illiterate blacks without disfranchising illiterate whites. Reflect and Discuss. Du Bois rejected white supremacy throughout his career. One rather ingenious scheme is recorded which presents a variation on the old theme. Grant is not their idea of a model President, nor were the southern carpetbag governments worthy of their unqualified praise. 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. This was that the ultimate root of the trouble in the South had been, not the institution of slavery, but the coexistence in one society of two races so distinct in characteristics as to render coalescence impossible; that slavery had been a models vivendi through which social life was possible; and that, after its disappearance, its place must be taken by some set of conditions which, if more humane and beneficent in accidents, must in essence express the same fact of racial inequality. 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. By the elections of 1888, however, the Republicans secured not only the presidency, but also a majority in each house of Congress. He claimed that some of the more progressive southern historians continued to propose "that their race must bar Negroes from social and economic equality." [15], Historian Jean Edward Smith wrote that the Dunning School "despite every intention to be fair" wrote from a white supremacist perspective. These were at once devoted as remorselessly to the extinction of black preponderance as they had been before to the repression of the whites. Unfortunately, Dunning is considered out of step with today’s political climate, so his books and essays on Reconstruction, as well as those by his students, the Dunning School, are hard to find. If, as one historian has suggested, Dunning viewed Reconstruction as "a mob run riot," the unruly crowd was biracial and bipartisan. Muller noted that "faulty ... generalizations" abounded. [122] Smith et al, The Dunning School, 85. Two years of supremacy in those states which had been restored in 1868 had revealed unmistakable evidences of moral and political weakness in the governments. the "Dunning School," which held that northern politicians and freedmen hurt the South politically and economically during Reconstruction. In 1875, this tribunal threw out an indictment under which a band of whites who had broken up a negro meeting in Louisiana had been convicted of conspiring to prevent negroes from assembling for lawful purposes and from carrying arms; for the right to assemble and the right to bear arms, the court declared, pertained to citizenship of a state, not of the United States, and therefore redress for interference with these rights must be sought in the courts of the state. The Dunning interpretation of Reconstruction brought censure from the African-American community and the small cohort of black historians. 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. 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. Eleven years earlier, Mr. Blaine, writing of the possibility of disfranchisement by educational and property tests, declared: “But no Southern state will do this, and for two reasons: first, they will in no event consent to a reduction of representative strength; and, second, they could not make any disfranchisement of the negro that would not at the same time disfranchise an immense number of whites.” How sadly Mr. Blaine misconceived the spirit and underrated the ingenuity of the Southerners Mississippi made clear to everybody. 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. William Dunning and John W. Burgess led the first group to offer a coherent and structured argument. Congress at the same time instituted a rigorous preventive system through the Federal Elections Laws. Save for a few judicial positions held over from early appointments, the national offices, like those of the states, were hopelessly removed from the reach of any Republican's ambition. Du Bois chastised historians for ignoring the central figures of Reconstruction, the freedmen. For him, the Dunning School of Reconstruction (which argued that it was a tragic era for white Southerners, only “redeemed” by the electoral results of 1876 and the concurrent paramilitary campaign against the Black Republican vote in the South) was not necessarily incorrect: “Few revisionists would claim that the Dunning interpretation of reconstruction is a pure fabrication.” The Republican party organization was maintained almost exclusively through the holders of federal offices in the postal and revenue service. But it may fairly be said that in each of the three periods into which the undoing of reconstruction falls one particular view has been dominant and characteristic. In putting his criticism in proper context, Stampp wrote: Few revisionists would claim that the Dunning interpretation of reconstruction is a pure fabrication. [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 response of the Democrats to the futile project of their adversaries was prompt and decisive. Stampp (p. 20) makes a similar point: "How Radical Change Occurs: An Interview With Historian Eric Foner" by Mike Konczal, February 3, 2015, New Georgia Encyclopedia: E. Merton Coulter (1890-1981), "The Claremont Institute - A People's History of Reconstruction", "The Undoing of Reconstruction," by William A. Dunning (1901), United States Congress Joint Committee on Reconstruction, The Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women, District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act, Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address, Choctaw and Chickasaw Treaty of Washington of 1866, United States House of Representatives elections, 1866, South Carolina civil disturbances of 1876, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dunning_School&oldid=999393991, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Current, Richard N. "From Civil War to World Power" in, Fairclough, Adam. Reflect and Discuss. This interpretation of Reconstruction placed it firmly in the category of historical blunder. Then, you should read/review chapter 15 from the Foner textbook and review your notes from class lectures on Reconstruction. And at the North, public opinion, accepting with a certain satirical complacency the confession of the Southerners that their earlier explanations of conditions had been false, acknowledged in turn that its views as to the political capacity of the blacks had been irrational, and manifested no disposition for a new crusade in favor of negro equality. Muller, Philip R. "Look Back Without Anger: A Reappraisal of William A. Dunning". 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. Dubois Challenged Dunning school Black historians suggest good came from Reconstruction *Dubois: wrote Black Reconstruction, emphasis on Marxist interpretation, popular during 1950s Civil Rights movement He supported the idea that the South had been ruined by Reconstruction. 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. 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. Moreover, by revision of the constitutions and by sweeping modifications of the laws, many strongholds of the old regime were destroyed. At the acme of the development undoubtedly stood the tissue ballot. Summarily, then, it may be said that the second period in the undoing of reconstruction ends with the political equality of the negroes still recognized in law, though not in fact, and with the Republican party, for all practical purposes, extinct in the South. Reserved. “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. Two, indeed, of the three elements which have been mentioned as summing up reconstruction still characterized the situation : the negroes were precisely equal in rights with the other race, and the Republican party was a powerful organization in the South. It was upon the support of the federal troops that the whole existence of the remaining black governments in the South came gradually to depend. 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. It was part of the edifice of the Jim CrowSystem. Blacks appeared either as passive victims of white manipulation or as an unthinking people whose "animal natures" threatened the stability of civilized society. Du Bois wrote Black Reconstruction in Americain 1935. Weisberger, Bernard A. Historian Eric Foner, a leading specialist, said: The traditional or Dunning School of Reconstruction was not just an interpretation of history. 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. In February, 1894, an act became law which repealed all existing statutes that provided for federal supervision of elections. "Reconstruction was significant for expanding the authority and purpose of the federal government, which adopted policies that considered equal rights for all races in America." As the effect of this first act seemed to the disorders of the South, Congress passed in the following year a more drastic law. Smith stated, "Blacks were depicted as inherently incapable of meaningful political participation while terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan were applauded for their efforts to restore the South's natural order." TheAtlantic.com Copyright (c) 2021 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. Not even the relative quiet and order that followed the triumph of the whites in these states were recognized as justifying the new regime. [6], In the 1940s Howard K. Beale began to define a different approach. In the same year, in the case of United States v. Reese, two sections of the Enforcement Act of 1870 were declared unconstitutional, as involving the exercise by the United States of powers in excess of those granted by the Fifteenth Amendment. The Dunning School refers to a historiographical school of thought regarding the Reconstruction period of American history (1865–1877), supporting conservative elements against the Radical Republicans who introduced civil rights in the South. The views of the Dunning School dominated scholarly and popular depictions of the era from about 1900 to the 1930s. It was an explanation for and justification of taking the right to vote away from black people on the grounds that they completely abused it during Reconstruction. Explaining the success of the Dunning School, historian Peter Novick noted two forces—the need to reconcile the North and the South after the Civil War and the increase in racism as Social Darwinism appeared to back the concept with science—that contributed to a "racist historiographical consensus" around the turn of the 20th century on the "criminal outrages" of Reconstruction. There was relatively little “Ku-Kluxing” or open violence, but in countless ways the negroes were impressed with the idea that there would be peril for them in voting. These segments look at the influence of the Dunning School on how Americans understood, and misunderstood, the Reconstruction Era. Devices like these were familiar in the South, but on this occasion they were accompanied by many other evidences of a purpose on the part of the whites to carry their point at all hazards. The victims of murder, bulldozing, and other violence were represented as of bad character and socially dangerous, and their treatment as merely incident to their own illegal and violent acts, and expressive of the tendency to self-help instead of judicial procedure, which had always been manifest in Southern life, and had been aggravated by the demoralization of war time. Adam Fairclough, a British historian whose expertise includes Reconstruction, summarized the Dunningite themes: Polling places were established at points so remote from the densest black communities that a journey of from twenty to forty miles was necessary in order to vote; and where the roads were interrupted by ferries, the resolute negroes who attempted to make the journey were very likely to find the boats laid up for repairs. This work refutes the Dunning School of historiography that rolled out of Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He contended that freedmen had proved incapable of self-government and thus had made segregation necessary. a.) were building rapid progress towards recovery before the congress's interference. 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. In Mississippi appeared the “shoestring district,” three hundred miles long and about twenty wide, including within its boundaries nearly all the densest black communities of the state. Under all the circumstances, therefore, extralegal devices had still to be used in the “black belt.”. And with it the Republican party faded into insignificance. The Dunning School: Historians, Race And The Meaning Of Reconstruction: John Smith: 9780813142258: Books - Amazon.ca "[9][10], The fact that blacks took part in government, wrote E. Merton Coulter in the last full-scale history of Reconstruction written entirely within the Dunning tradition, was a "diabolical" development, "to be remembered, shuddered at, and execrated." By Louisiana, however, a new method was devised for exempting the whites from the effect of the property and intelligence tests. The historians in this group were strong devotees of the constitution and portrayed a strict constructionist attitude. [1] As a professor, he taught generations of scholars, many o… 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. To the forces making for the resumption of white government in the South was thus opposed that same apparently irresistible power which had originally overthrown it. In one case given by the Senate investigating committee, through whose action on the elections of 1878, in South Carolina, the theory and practice of the tissue ballot were revealed to an astonished world, the figures were as follows:—. Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer quoted approvingly the southern observation that Yankees didn't understand the subject because they "had never seen a nigger except Fred Douglass." Furthermore, framework and methodologies found in the Dunning school of thought was far-reaching: influencing hundreds of historians in one form or another and receiving positive reviews from the public. Already, however, the courts had manifested a disposition to question the constitutionality of the most drastic provisions of the earlier Enforcement Acts. William Dunning and John W. Burgess led the first group to offer a coherent and structured argument. Finding it impossible to believe that blacks could ever be independent actors on the stage of history, with their own aspirations and motivations, Dunning, et al. The historian who gave his name to the Dunning School, a group of scholars who decried Reconstruction, explained his objections to the United States government’s effort to establish racial equality in the post-war South. Here, however, the presence of the federal troops and of all the paraphernalia of the Federal Elections Laws materially stiffened the courage of the negroes, and the result of the state election became closely involved in the controversy over the presidential count. As a professor, he taught generations of scholars, many of … 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. William Archibald Dunning (12 May 1857 – 25 August 1922) was an American historian and political scientist at Columbia University noted for his work on the Reconstruction era of the United States.He founded the informal Dunning School of interpreting the Reconstruction era through his own writings and the Ph.D. dissertations of his numerous students. W.E.B. This suggests at once the enormous advantage gained by securing control of the state government. 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). Because of these opportunities the resort to bulldozing and other violence steadily decreased. And because the conspiracy clause brought such offenses into the jurisdiction of the United States it was unconstitutional and void. Beale's analysis combined an assumption of "racial egalitarianism and an insistence on the centrality of class". Some historians have suggested that historians sympathetic to the Neo-Confederate movement are influenced by the Dunning School's interpretation of history. This contrast suggests what has been involved in the undoing of reconstruction. The views of the Dunning School dominated scholarly and popular depictions of the era from about 1900 to the 1930s. In the meantime, a process had been instituted in the Southern states that has given the most distinctive character to the last period in the undoing of reconstruction. 74–77. Contributions by Shepherd W. McKinley, James S. Humphreys, William Bland Whitley, John David Smith, Michael W. Fitzgerald, John Herbert Roper Sr., J. Vincent Lowery, Fred Arthur Bailey, Paul Ortiz and William Harris Bragg When the writers spoke of "the South" or "the people", they meant whites. From the late nineteenth century until World War I, a group of Columbia University students gathered under the mentorship of the renowned historian William Archibald Dunning (1857--1922). Gradually there emerged again the idea of Jefferson and Clay and Lincoln, which had been hooted and hissed into obscurity during the prevalence of the abolitionist fever. Edited by John David Smith and J. Vincent Lowery. The tendency in this direction was greatly promoted by conditions within the Republican party itself. 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