Before Obama
A Reappraisal of Black Reconstruction Era Politicians [2 volumes]
by Matthew Lynch, Editor
October 2012, 558pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
2 volumes, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39791-2
$138, £107, 120€, A190
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eBook Available: 978-0-313-39792-9
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In the roughly two-decade-long period after the American Civil War, a cadre of Black Reconstruction politicians found the courage to stand and attempt to effect change against powerful opposition—and at a time when the United States was not ready. The contributions of these brave souls set the stage for the Civil Rights movement and heightened the world’s consciousness of the need for equality.

This book introduces America to the Black Reconstruction politicians who fought valiantly for the civil rights of all people—important individuals who have been ignored by modern historians as well as their contemporaries.

Between 1865 and 1876, about 2,000 blacks held elective and appointive offices in the South, but these men faced astounding odds. They were belittled as corrupt and inadequate by their white political opponents, who used legislative trickery, libel, bribery, and brutal intimidation of their constituents to rob these black lawmakers of their base of support.

Before Obama: A Reappraisal of Black Reconstruction-Era Politicians comprises two volumes that examine the leadership and contributions of black politicians during the Reconstruction era—diverse men whose efforts during Reconstruction should not be overlooked. Each biographical essay examines how each individual contributed to the Reconstruction Era and fostered the development of a parallel civil society within black communities, what influence his actions had on the future of blacks in politics, and why he has been ignored. This work also serves to set the record straight about these black politicians who are often scapegoated for the overall failure of the Reconstruction.

Matthew Lynch is associate professor of education at Langston University, Langston, OK. He is an educator committed to developing outstanding K—12 teachers, improving social studies education in K—12 settings, and fostering collaborative enterprises that move the field of social studies education forward. His published works include It's Time for A Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories.


"To students in the 21st century, it is all too easy to assume that black Americans and the U.S. government remained distanced and estranged from one another until the 1960s, little realizing how much uncertainty and potential existed in the 1860s and 1870s before the dramatic gains of the Civil War and Reconstruction were disassembled. This collection of essays about black lawmakers in Reconstruction offers to perform the valuable service of introducing students to the uncertainty, promise, black agency, and ultimate disappointment that those crucial years held. "—Chandra Manning, Georgetown University

"In the years following the Civil War, African Americans asserted their claims to freedom by reuniting families, establishing community institutions, seeking economic stability, fighting entrenched racism, and engaging politics, and they did so with grace, fierceness, and courage. In this important two-volume set, Matthew Lynch has assembled an impressive group of contributors who reveal how black politicians during Reconstruction exhibited the best qualities of public leadership despite massive obstacles. Lynch’s work is a much needed addition to the scholarship and should help to demystify an often misunderstood and mischaracterized era in American history."—Robert Luckett, PhD, Director, Margaret Walker Center; Assistant Professor, Department of History, Jackson State University
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