Nothing But Freedom
Emancipation and Its Legacy
Narrated by Dan Lenard
Approximately 4.5 hours
Book published by Louisiana State University Press
Nothing But Freedom examines the aftermath of emancipation in the South and the restructuring of society by which the former slaves gained, beyond their freedom, a new relation to the land they worked on, to the men they worked for, and to the government they lived under. Taking a comparative approach, Eric Foner examines Reconstruction in the southern states against the experience of Haiti, where a violent slave revolt was followed by the establishment of an undemocratic government and the imposition of a system of forced labor; the British Caribbean, where the colonial government oversaw an orderly transition from slavery to the creation of an almost totally dependent work force; and early twentieth-century southern and eastern Africa, where a self-sufficient peasantry was dispossessed in order to create a dependent black work force. Measuring the progress of freedmen in the post—Civil War South against that of freedmen in other recently emancipated societies, Foner reveals Reconstruction to have been, despite its failings, a unique and dramatic experiment in interracial democracy in the aftermath of slavery. Steven Hahn's timely new foreword places Foner's analysis in the context of recent scholarship and assesses its enduring impact in the twenty-first century.
Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, where he earned his B.A. and Ph.D. In his teaching and scholarship, Foner focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth-century America. His Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, won the Bancroft, Parkman, and Los Angeles Times Book prizes and remains the standard history of the period. In 2006 Foner received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching at Columbia University. He has served as president of the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the Society of American Historians. He is currently writing a book on Lincoln and slavery.
“Stimulating in approach and sweeping in its references, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in U.S. or comparative history.”
“Nothing But Freedom explodes conventional wisdom and exemplifies how we might better understand class conflict in American history.”
—Village Voice Literary Supplement
“Elegant and tightly argued.... Along the way, Foner provides us with fascinating insights into the relatively neglected debates over fencing laws and hunting and fishing rights in the postemancipation South, and into the solidarity of the low-country black community.”
—Times Literary Supplement
“This enlightening study exposes the roots of slavery in economics and human greed.”
“Foner's main concern is to delineate the ways in which the newly emancipated slaves endeavored to buttress the formal freedom they had attained with the substance of political and economic power. He brings to this task both a sophisticated conceptual framework rooted in class analysis and a meticulous respect for the complexity, integrity, and independence of the past.”