thumbnail of American Experience; Reconstruction: The Second Civil War; Interview with Nell Irvin Painter, Historian, Princeton University
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ok so the first question though there's a general question this help us understand the importance of reconstruction of the moment is true ones at stake for the mission was we can understand the meaning of reconstruction narrowly or wrongly very narrowly it was seen entering the union victory after the civil war that is to say cementing the victory for none are confederates seated in that victory for the united states as a unified nation and also for the republican party so that's the more narrow understanding the larger understanding which i think it's more important for us today is the whole meaning of american democracy is the united states a country in which at that point all man have a say in deciding of representatives and the shape of their government because remember before the
civil war before reconstruction about one third of southern and could not vote actually was more than that because many white southerners also could not vote so reconstruction and democracy are very intricately linked one of princess got a lot of talk about those one thousand stake years which is similar to the whole question of the marshes of media freedom what freeman's the meaning of freedom and reconstruction are two slightly different things because the meaning of freedom is in the narrow sense not being mostly free to move freely to take employment and believe in one very important aren't free to keep your family together those in the political efforts reconstruction was that based on political moment and political change it had economic ramifications it
had family vacations in this narrative since reconstruction is political wears freedom this person the envelope that happens can you talk about how our audience understand how momentous this must have been for the water and for slavery and sometimes and slavery has coincided at least in the law with the thirteenth amendment that's the abolition of slavery but freedom in the human sense began in nineteen sixty eight in sixty won eighteen sixty three eight and sixty four nineteen sixty five so freedom is something that comes in he says i just finished writing a chapter in which i would've been our former slave who said that tree and we ended up celebrating freedom about twelve times because there were twelve different moments along when the confederacy left
the union pete many people realize that this is the end of slavery or when the union army came into the neighborhood for the first time if they were black troops they might come and say three but that they might have to lead the pledge of my comeback and say get to work and then there was the end of the war so there many different moments in which one becomes free we can think of freedom in at least two different ways and one is in the larger sense of freeing the whole population but almost the more interesting moment is how individuals were caught on there for him so for instance a foreign woman making sense of freedom might be deciding whether or not to move to where her husband is or perhaps to stay close to that business that she'd built up during the war according to town and selling ginger kicks on what happens to your children black coats passed right after the civil
war which included very onerous rules about children remember during slavery and actually after two because black people or people children were in the workforce children worked children were from the time they couldn't work which meant for heavy labor from about ten years or so a two year old kid you were protecting your list of the child and parents thought that thirteen year olds are children and they wanted to have their children with them but the plant you might say i need this child to do this work or i'm going to find this child out because you can't provide for it so they're always the decisions that went on a personal level about families about children about spouses about grandparents and that is the real of working a freed thousands of individual decisions and very often they could not
be made possible you've lost friends last minute lost friends were family members who've been scattered by the slave trade or by the vicissitudes of war remember that were created to help tens of thousands of refugees and we know this from the wars are over time i'm so the war plus the slave trade meant that black families scattered throughout the south and they on freedom what freedom at this point your family back together so in order to do this people would place little one dance in the newspapers and the concert called lost friends so that people would say my name is henry adams in our quiz
georgia and now i lived in key to parish louisiana and i'm looking for my wife or my children and this is what they were like in this is where they went so far so i mean when i first encountered these little ones and then archive i was actually crying because there's so i read that people's families were so rent asunder and so that was one of the first pieces of were a lot of freedom which continued into reconstruction also we talk a little bit about the impact of freedom and emancipation on african american people what kind of impact is that these events have one so that one particular plan one thing we need to remember about emancipation as we're talking about a third of the southern population so that can't stay contained within black people something of that magnitude
had ripples throughout the whole society and also everybody reacting the runway where we're talking about individuals were talking about something deeply personal as well as something that's legal and economic but even so we can generalize to a certain extent are one thing that happened with emancipation is that many black people felt free to drop the mask and show their anger in slavery did not show anger you had to smile you have to retrain yourself as happy with your lawn otherwise you can suffer violent consequences so people are always smiling in slavery frieden they let himself show so they talked back to people they show anger sometimes there's actually physical violence the black people white people or even killing my people is a lot of violence going on at sixty five my parents and sixty eight and it pretty much can't dance critics
love pollution but eighteen sixty five there's a lot of flair our anger and then there's the question of what to do with families and then there's what people can call the most obvious thing is the planter class the owner class whose so personal identity was affected are the loss of this place really undercut a lot of french identity because what it meant to be a rich white person was to all these people and then there was the whole question of that really working out of a labor relations because as slaves like people were units work as free people they want it to be family people and then what was the meaning of the work for their employers work was going into the field and growing cotton or tobacco something called commodity something to the market or working in someone else's kitchen or someone else's house
in service but this is work that is not work for commodities and not work for other people in that sense it's not economic or subsistence work it's the garden yuki to feed your family it's the crops you grow to take care of your family not to export to britain to make the industrial revolution so with black people's no longer being enslaved and no longer working for others that scene the work they were doing seemed like not work because that was one of things that changed the labor market so what you see for instance in terms of women's work is that sometimes when employers said wow i mean i had so much trouble are these people going to play like people so white people had a real opening into the labor market in nineteen sixty five in a way they haven't and it turns out that they acted in the labor market very much the way other people did
so poor white women were no more anxious to do housework then for one point and what they do is raise the rates we just raised wages and then there was also want a competition between steel mill workers and skilled female workers between one in line which actually white workers one in the long run in the late nineteenth century so there were many more skilled black people are at sixty five than they were skilled white people and when that skilled work became wage war then when workers moved into that many shifts i wanna come to talk about something you said he says that african americans asian free the first time members of the ad every mile you were white planters surprised and when you talk about someone like
thomas then in service of talk about the what about the response that you will have led her to see it in terms of their protests yet richard thomas the plantation mistress many plantation mistress is a mistress to ensure was absolutely shocked when she discovered that the people who had been slaves were not happy to work for her she was absolute because that's about the massive they had a warrant not always successfully detonator think that these things were running on its bases and she actually think it had a miscarriage are shortly after her husband told their former slaves that they were free it was a tremendous shock for many in atlanta quest to discover first of all that the people who worked for them we're not happy to work for them and secondly sometimes the people who had
worked for them were really angry at their so what you have over and over is the sec human rights they were not grateful for all we had done which strikes are yours is nonsensical you also not just looking back to last tuesday's you talk about you were talking about what happens when african americans were moved into the workforce are skilled workers competing with whites at the end of the war was this kind of people are forced businesses pay workers it says there's a better wage workers what do these present some kind of americans presented a kind of a threat to many people to realize that that that they're going to be possibly endure kasich and people who were black who had been slaves who were regarded as less than an hour competition for work went on
in many different ways for women it was usually competition over household work and what that did was five to raise wages and to improve the conditions of that war so for instance after the civil war during reconstruction through that period afterwards i hustle service no longer had to live in certain which of course has been a condition of war before so the working conditions improved in that way there was not so much over islands it i think and i say i think because we haven't looked into this over competition for how some competition for fieldwork in competition for skilled work we know that there was a good deal of violence around skilled work and it was violence that finally i got a lot of black people don't work in the railroad business for instance there were a series of hate strikes attacks of that by the early twentieth century the black workers will
railroad worker was a spoon and porters or as helpers to mechanics is over so they could no longer the engineers that's right the same in the nineteenth century around the spirit of black workers and roll actually did much more than just co workers servants oh absolutely are black workers in the middle of the century did everything they did everything and then when that were became paid sometimes employers prefer to employ workers are sometimes white workers to the gate and take starts and we will not work with black voters or things happen so what you see over the course of the late nineteenth century is a loss of skilled work for black workers and circle back to congress are times when there's an interesting quote a moment that you were there to talk about one as we should talk about here's his living at the mouth
of a volcano when she kind of this new country thomas said that she felt like she was living a mile volcano us she was talking about the era of slavery when she thought that she understood that the people around her were not all that happy and this what happened when interactions occur in other places or when skiers occurred or that sort of thing and you should go to live there because many people get sort of taking life on its surface appearance that at moments in trouble she realized that there was something a jar here and that things could go very bad and one of those moments was leaking sixty five that's very interesting about the fall at sixty five win and so many black people were saying that one of our own farms we want to raise our own crops and her own family's together aren't we want to get on with life and we don't want you
and so the white people hearing this is their right to rise up is going to be an insurrection episodes so christmas came in when there was no insurrection and a lot of white people and i've read their journals they felt really quite silly they realize that we must really strange that that insurrection spirit at sixty five is one of those moments when the black independence got processed in many white wines as installation year's revolution richard thomas at sixty five director thomas was a woman who was educated she got to college she was as carpeted as anybody could be to deal with the changes it at sixty five she fell apart and she wrote in her journal of months later
that she could not right for quite a while because she was so shocked and she felt she said that if slavery could end her whole theory he got in it has the bible said slavery was all right and if slavery was what did that say about the bible was revealed truth it cut to the quick and she could not write she went around the day she had a miscarriage she fainted she was totally lost so the underpinnings of her whole individual identity on the bills underpinnings were rooted in sort of the inbreeding the ownership of other people and when those underpinnings went her individual identity where the issue where someone like richard thomas go to foreigners on the page is you look to her husband what happens dr thomas initially would look to her
husband because it's very important for her to see her husband as more competent her husband was not more competent her husband also fell apart another mini silences in her journal she never talked about his drinking i have read other people's journals and other people's autobiographies biographies to discover about her sense of crisis recently she shared with large numbers of the planter class are perhaps people who didn't own its many slaves didn't feel quite so implicated in their individual identity he and people like her but certainly for the plant to classes among men tremendous loss and for her a moment of loss as well and he finally began to recover some months later out on a the moments of reconstruction each and sixty six at sixty seven she was pretty much backed hundred feet and emotionally that she thought
that she just didn't want to hear any more about black people that it was just too much her life had changed so much for the for the worse that she was upset however she was the more composed i think that her husband partly because she was not a voter she's wonders if she could go out and she was not a political person because she was a woman her husband a democrat felt very much compromise by reconstruction because of loss of power so he was one of those democrats was conniving joe overthrow radical reconstruction overthrow the republicans over to the black people and doesn't want to the republican party she felt that he was carrying his paranoia to extremes city reaction this is under the house when unarmed black man with me out in their kitchen to talk about what they were going to do so she's seeking to picture were pictures inside sneaking around
underneath trying to listen to what they're talking about she says that she would be a much broader than that and should not be afraid of that issue for him i think he was afraid that she felt that probably is her wealth would carry over she ultimately lost her wealth and she ultimately lost the korean community as well but this is a long process of loss and it goes up and down the eighteen sixty five though tremendous shock and maybe even with depression one of them yes so what he tried to do so so listen and try to use far i don't know exactly what jefferson thomas was trying to do because the journal does not go into detail
there but we know from the political history that people like him more engaged in what was then called bulldozing that was violence to stop people from voting they're great because of this wave of violence and it was captured on shiite violence the great victims were black republicans why republicans seem so white republicans were that they were southerners were people from the north where people recall scott weiss beat recall carpetbaggers also got targeted also got beaten tarred and feathered run out of town so forth so we're talking about a very partisan kind of counter revolution he did initially part that you were talking about reconstruction which is after sixty six seven and they're ego themself
together it was simple probably involved in the clan says that the request has a side question we have a sense of how players responded to that black soldiers coming and saints we talk about how they were responding also how african americans would respond to these blocks ok for an agreement on the face of it very clearly and very often the union armies all the incinerators some black soldiers liberated charleston south carolina for instance it and the union army saw this as a symbolic act black soldiers going through the south saw themselves as literature survey when they took great pleasure in going to the plantations
and saying to people you are free now black soldiers came from the north as well as the south so there was for instance the massachusetts regiment think it's the fourth than fifty fifty which included people from massachusetts but also from elsewhere in england something like three hundred and forty black men came from northern new england from maine from new hampshire from my but also people from the midwest are and new york and new jersey and pennsylvania in the world in the massachusetts regiment so they they came with a sense of their city on the meaning of symbolic weight in addition there were former slaves they were called contraband first who went into south carolina regiment and these were people who had been enslaved and saw a bear service a union army as one step into freedom so the union army played a role on it
was slightly different form and from different parts of the united states it was a very heavily symbolic world some people knew what they were doing the late nineteenth century poet paul lawrence dunbar wrote a poem called powder coated soldiers and it was about this symbolic role as moderators his father had been one of the moderators charleston south carolina when you're so when you see these soldiers can wear what is some of the op i'll warrant someone in her to thomas' class the planter class they couldn't stand the sight of black soldiers for the very reasons that black soldiers saw themselves as moderators and as highly symbolic entities so for black people last orders integrators was a wonderful thing for the planter class black soldiers as the barriers was a terrible thing and so one of the things that southern whites wanted to to change immediately
was to get rid of what soldiers because black soldiers were in their eyes are very disturbing element to this that the two presidents thomas i don't think he uses the word oppressive for black soldiers about mr jim piddock and sisters but i don't think her truthfulness uses the most i don't think richard thomas uses the term oppressor for black soldiers i think she probably would've thought of that war is an annoyance or distance probably a disturbance is the word because they really did disturb the society as people like richard thomas
thought it should be and this is i never got back in the way that richard thomas thought it should be a i want to jump to the us will forego that one more question about wine i was wired for and believe that when the song poured we'll talk about this for a national plan and those three people to leave this land there's three people believe atlanta's important because they were they were a real people that were peasants and working the land was what they did i should add that most others will people and saw land as a crucial imports see happen so that the difference was that the three people wanted to farm for themselves
so they saw their own land as a means of having a stake in society they often talked about living and working under the wind and featured and that was real treat him the idea of forty acres in and you came from the discussion in congress gary stevens for instance a member of congress from pennsylvania a spoken congress congressional despite integration about the need for free people to have a stake in society and word of these discussions came south probably three black soldiers in addition general william tecumseh sherman sent a side a strip of land along the island's south carolina georgia sea islands for black settlement and this was to be a forty acre plots and he said that the army could lead to new rules to help two source of the idea of mules
also is rooted in what was going on in federal policy the difference between what the free people wanted and what the federal policy offered was the federal policies templar and what three people wanted was printed they almost never got any land either through federal action or through state action three people didn't get land but by in large it was through looking at themselves that was a minority of southern black farmers most of them turned into tenants of sharecroppers on the crisis the land crisis in the sahel endured throughout the nineteenth century and affected more than black soul of black performers black and white farmers became progressively less land over the period of the late nineteenth century so black and white farmers i did not only and
the proportion of windows seven farmers decrees got complicated let's look to his camouflage what what does he what does what would that what does he and people like him represent in the south especially independents this change is happening so fast thomas campbell was from new jersey from what is now new brunswick and he was one of hundreds of like carpetbaggers carpetbaggers were northerners who went to the south for a variety of reasons sometimes two former make money very often these teachers very often as people who could profit from an uncertain situation or for just can't move people who were going to sell to help him the victory at so we haven't been you know hundreds of people who were doing this it's very much like
african americans who wanted to go to south africa in the nineteen nineties in the early twenty first century a place in which rapid change that's occurring and they felt they could be of service so thomas campbell was a black panther who went to georgia and settled on st simons island which is one of the sea islands and so are on the coast used aren't around tunis campbell saw a chance to make a black settlement to empower black people by keeping white people off so he said at a sort of political machine and it was actually elected to the legislature and that threw out of the legislature and even as a very old man in prison in cities were question marks while he prospered in the late sixties and early seventies
he was able to make a kind of black in claims in which black georgians had access to politics to schools to churches to do the sorts of things that were inherent in the process of reconstruction what kind of what kind of oil comment below tennis scandal was an outsider could connect to local people because he had something to offer it have much more expertise member he was an educated man who was an order and so he knew how to work the system is well i'm sure there were some people who are often the corner grumbling about this outsider but my large the local population would see him as someone who had come to help and someone who could help in our
political system you need to have some kind of educational function successfully you need to be able to make public speeches you need to understand how the state government works so many of the free people who'd spent their whole lives working it feels completely capped from formal education would have seen in him their means and sixty one of the things that was remarkable about how like he was and people talk about this is a real as a factor possible that the remark about that was a surprise but talk about that and whether that was today i'm the political leadership during reconstruction ranged in complex shin found very dark skinned people to very light skinned people someone like john wayne lynch of mississippi for instance hanna an irish father and i don't know what color his his mother was she was in slate that he himself was let's get a person in there were many light
skinned people because those were the people who were more likely to have access to education before the civil war or access to power but there were also a very dark skinned people who either had come from the north led to the scandal or who were slaves the caller questions and the question of free man versus freedom man appeared in politics because whatever can divide people will divide people and complexion has divided black people still divides black people but very much so in the late nineteenth century i suppose that's how many of the free get people in georgia would've been happy to see it to that scandal because he was very dark skin but my sense in reading the history is that color alone didn't determine the response it was what could that
This record is featured in “Reconstruction Interviews.”
American Experience
Reconstruction: The Second Civil War
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Interview with Nell Irvin Painter, Historian, Princeton University
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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In the tumultuous years after the Civil War (1863-77), America grappled with how to rebuild itself, how to successfully bring the South back into the Union and how to bring former slaves into the life of the country. Painter talks about the link between Reconstruction and democracy, freedom and lost friends and family, changes in labor, Gertrude Thomas and shock at discovering slaves were not happy working for her, competition for work, black soldiers as liberators and the Mass 54th, whites disturbed by black soldiers, the land crisis, Tunis Campbell and black settlement, how complexion can divide black people.
Race and Ethnicity
Politics and Government
American history, African Americans, civil rights, racism, Reconstruction, Confederacy, voting rights, slavery, emancipation
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Chicago: “American Experience; Reconstruction: The Second Civil War; Interview with Nell Irvin Painter, Historian, Princeton University,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 27, 2019,
MLA: “American Experience; Reconstruction: The Second Civil War; Interview with Nell Irvin Painter, Historian, Princeton University.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 27, 2019. <>.
APA: American Experience; Reconstruction: The Second Civil War; Interview with Nell Irvin Painter, Historian, Princeton University. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from