That the Ku Klux movement was to some extent the expression of a purpose not to submit to the political domination of the blacks is doubtless true. Du Bois chastised historians for ignoring the central figures of Reconstruction, the freedmen. 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. 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. 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 major impediment to a more complex interpretation of Reconstruction that historic sites have faced, and continue to wrestle with, is the legacy of the Dunning School. Slavery was abolished, and reconstruction gave the freedmen the franchise. All of the alleged horrors of Reconstruction helped to freeze the minds of the white South in resistance to any change whatsoever. But loss of Congressmen was by no means longed for, and the possibility of such a thing was very carefully considered. Not the least interesting feature of this episode was the explanation given by the white committee, of the existence of the great mass of tissue ballots. 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. It is named for Columbia University professor William Archibald Dunning who taught many of its followers. [15], Historian Jean Edward Smith wrote that the Dunning School "despite every intention to be fair" wrote from a white supremacist perspective. During the dark and bloody period of reconstruction, the Dunning school emphasized the general interpretation with attitudes towards specific Reconstruction factors. 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. portrayed African Americans either as "children", ignorant dupes manipulated by unscrupulous whites, or as savages, their primal passions unleashed by the end of slavery.[17]. For the efficient working of this method of suppression, it was indispensable, however, that the officers of election should be whites. This contrast suggests what has been involved in the undoing of reconstruction. Download Citation | The Dunning School: Historians, Race, and the Meaning of Reconstruction ed. The Dunning school, named for the Columbia University professor William Archibald Dunning, has not always been held in such low esteem. More important, the concentration of "evidence" in this single scantily researched volume suggested that Dunning's "racist" generalizations were more unexamined than "inflexible. For William A. Dunning, blacks "had no pride of race and no aspiration or ideals save to be like whites." "The Dunning School provides important, groundbreaking studies of the authors of the first scholarly histories of Reconstruction in the southern states. 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. 1.) The number of polling places was kept so small as to make rapid voting indispensable to a full vote; and then the whites, by challenges and carefully premeditated quarrels among themselves, would amuse the blacks and consume time, till only enough remained for their own votes to be cast. Historian Eric Foner’s course on Reconstruction was videoed a few years ago and posted on-line. Luqdah rated it really liked it Mar 11, 2020. Dunning believed that allowing blacks to vote and hold office had been "a serious error". 2.) 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. Referring to "the racist rants of the Dunning school", Smith noted that the influence of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s "consigned the Dunning school to the museum of historical artifacts."[16]. 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. Public sentiment in the North, outside of Congress, manifested considerable hostility to the project, and its adoption as a party measure probably played a role in the tremendous reaction which swept the Republicans out of power in the House in 1890, and gave to the Democrats in 1892 the control of both houses of Congress and the presidency as well. In several of the states a poll-tax receipt was required as a qualification for voting. The result is not hard to guess. 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. Before 1880 the anticipation, and after that year the realization, of a “solid South” played a prominent part in national politics. This school emphasized the questionable practices of Reconstruction leaders and celebrated the rise of the South's old guard There was a strong sentiment in Mississippi, as there is throughout the South, that a reduction of representation would not be an intolerable price to pay for the legitimate extinction of negro suffrage. A year later, in 1883, the court summarily disposed of the act of 1875 by declaring that the rights which it endeavored to guarantee were not strictly civil rights at all, but rather social rights, and that in either case the federal government had nothing to do with them. [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 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. A comparison of the congressional delegation from the states of the defunct Confederacy in the Forty-First Congress (1869-71) with that in the Fifty-First (1889-91) is eloquent of the transformation that the two decades had wrought: in the former, twenty out of the twenty-two Senators were Republican, and forty-four out of fifty-eight Representatives; in the latter, there were no Republican Senators, and but three Representatives. 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. When, in 1885, a Democratic administration assumed power, this basis for continued existence was very seriously weakened, and the decline of the party was much accelerated. Between 1868 and 1870, when the cessation of the national military authority left the new state governments to stand by their own strength, there developed that widespread series of disorders with which the name of the KuKlux is associated. 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. 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. They recognize the shabby aspects of the era: the corruption was real, the failures obvious, the tragedy undeniable. This suggests at once the enormous advantage gained by securing control of the state government. In 1875, just before the Republicans lost control of Congress, they passed, as a sort of memorial to Charles Sumner, who had long urged its adoption, a Supplementary Civil Rights Bill, which made criminal, and put under the jurisdiction of the federal courts, any denial of equality to negroes in respect to accommodations in theatres, railway cars, hotels, and other such places. 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. Dunning's antipathy in Reconstruction is generously heaped on all groups, regardless of race, color, creed, or sectional origins. And because the conspiracy clause brought such offenses into the jurisdiction of the United States it was unconstitutional and void. Thus the last vestige disappeared of the system through which the political equality of the blacks had received direct support from the national government. The generation-long discussions of the political conditions in the South have evoked a variety of explanations by the whites of the disappearance of the black vote. Not till the box was opened were the tissue tickets discovered. 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." [13], Stampp then noted that "Dunningites overlooked a great deal", and revisionists rejected "the two-dimensional characters that Dunning's disciples have painted. This work refutes the Dunning School of historiography that rolled out of Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In short, they have not turned history on its head, but rather, they recognize that much of what Dunning's disciples have said about reconstruction is true. The negroes, though numerically much in excess of the whites, were very definitely demoralized by the aggressiveness and unanimity of the latter, and in the ultimate test of race strength the weaker gave way. The extreme and violent element was reduced to quiescence, and haste was made more slowly. Respectable whites would not serve with the blacks in the militia; the Republican state governments would not—and indeed, from the very nature of the case, could not—exclude the blacks from the military service; the mere suggestion of employing the blacks alone in such service turned every white into practically a sympathizer with the Ku Klux: and thus the government was paralyzed at the foundation of its authority. 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. Dunning believed that allowing blacks to vote and hold office had been "a serious error". The phrasing of the franchise clause may not have been actually determined with reference to this matter; but it is obvious that the application of the Fourteenth Amendment is, to say the least, not facilitated by the form used. 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. Congress at the same time instituted a rigorous preventive system through the Federal Elections Laws. The third period has had for its task the termination of equal rights in law as well as in fact. 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. Muller noted that "faulty ... generalizations" abounded. In 1890, just when the Republicans in Congress were pushing their project for renewing the federal control of elections, Mississippi made the first step in the new direction. They understood that the radical Republicans were not all selfless patriots, and that southern white men were not all Negro-hating rebels. [8] Historian John Hope Franklin wrote of Coulter: No sooner was revisionism launched, however, than E. Merton Coulter insisted that "no amount of revision can write away the grievous mistakes made in this abnormal period of American history." The Initial Interpretation of Reconstruction. 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. 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. 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. And it was only after the Civil Rights revolution swept away the racist underpinnings of that old view—i.e., that black people are incapable of taking part in American democracy—that you could get a new view of Reconstruction widely accepted. This was not regarded by the most thoughtful Republicans as a very judicious piece of legislation; but it was perceived that, with the Democrats about to control the House of Representatives, there was not likely to be a further opportunity for action in aid of the blacks, and so the act was permitted to go through and take its chances of good. While he did not study with Dunning or at Columbia University, the Southern historian E. Merton Coulter represented some typical views. 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. 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. 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