The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction

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9780195037562: The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction

At a public picnic in the South in the 1890s, a young man paid five cents for his first chance to hear the revolutionary Edison talking machine. He eagerly listened as the soundman placed the needle down, only to find that through the tubes he held to his ears came the chilling sounds of a lynching. In this story, with its blend of new technology and old hatreds, genteel picnic and mob violence, Edward Ayers captures the history of the South in the years between Reconstruction and the turn of the century--a combination of progress and reaction that defined the contradictory promise of the New South.
Ranging from the Georgia coast to the Tennessee mountains, from the power brokers to tenant farmers, Ayers depicts a land of startling contrasts--a time of progress and repression, of new industries and old ways. Ayers takes us from remote Southern towns, revolutionized by the spread of the railroads, to the statehouses where Democratic "Redeemers" swept away the legacy of Reconstruction; from the small farmers, trapped into growing nothing but cotton, to the new industries of Birmingham; from abuse and intimacy in the family to tumultuous public meetings of the prohibitionists. He explores every aspect of society, politics, and the economy, detailing the importance of each in the emerging New South. Here is the local Baptist congregation, the country store, the tobacco-stained second-class railroad car, the rise of Populism: the teeming, nineteenth-century South comes to life in these pages. And central to the entire story is the role of race relations, from alliances and friendships between blacks and whites to the spread of Jim Crow laws and disenfranchisement. Ayers weaves all these details into the contradictory story of the New South, showing how the region developed the patterns it was to follow for the next fifty years.
When Edward Ayers published Vengeance and Justice, a landmark study of crime and punishment in the nineteenth-century South, he received wide acclaim. Now he provides an unforgettable account of the New South--a land with one foot in the future and the other in the past.

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About the Author:


About the Author:
Edward Ayers is Professor of History at the University of Virginia and is the author of Vengeance and Justice.

Review:

"Best books of 1992--Library Journal

"Thanks to its extraordinary vitality, Origins of the New South is the monument that towers behind Edward Ayers's Promise of the New South; it is also a monument that Ayers's exciting new book is bound to replace. Here, at last, is a subtle, compelling biew of the late 19th-century South whose scholarship is up-to-date....Ambiguity, surprise, and gender analysis characterize The Promise of the New South, which bristles with unexpected insights....In a synthesis that captures the late 19th-century South in its bewildering complexity, Ayers does get the New South right."--Washington Post Book World

"A uniquely comprehensive cultural, political, and social history of post-Reconstruction....Succeeds in depicting the post-Reconstruction South not as a repressed backwater of American life, but as a region that, despite substantial injustices, made significant contributions to American life."--Kirkus Reviews

"Impressive....A comprehensive overview of an important era, drawing on the best work of many historians."--Publishers Weekly

"In the preface to a 1971 edition of a book on this period first published in 1951 I saif it was time for someone to write a new synthesis. After another 20 years Edward Ayers has risen to the challenge admirably and produced this excellent book."--C. Vann Woodward, author of Origins of the New South

"Few historians have managed to strike such an effective balance between highly evocative details and a broad view of social and economic development. Edward Ayers has a marvelous eye and ear for recreating the voices, the landscapes, and the human emotions of the past....This is a book that will long be studied, debated, borrowed from, and imitated. It is a book that will make a significant difference."--David Brion Davis, author of The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture

"Stunningly significant and original...a beautifully written narrative of late nineteenth and early twentieth century southern history that ranges from politics to music, from race relations to class relations and provides readers with a brilliant synthesis that will stand in tandem with C. Vann Woodward's Origins of the New South as indispensable reading for students and scholars and general readers seeking the understand the South."--Harold D. Woodman, Purdue University

"A rare achievement, the kind of breakthrough that moves a field onto a new plateau. Writing in the engaged and humane tradition of C. Vann Woodward, Ayers combines a fresh look at the political issues around which Woodward's work revolved with a vivid evocation of the joys, pathos, and contradictions of everyday life....A gripping epic of social change."--Jacquelyn Hall, author of Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World

"Some forty years after the appearance of C. Vann Woodward's Origins of the New South, we have a work of comparable depth, breadth, strength, and power....This history listens, and its talks."--Joel Williamson, author of A Rage for Order: Black-White Relations in the American South since Emancipation

"Ayers's The Promise of the New South is the most ambitious, comprehensive, and original survey of post-Reconstruction Southern history to appear since Woodward's Origins....Ayers is in a good position to shed new light on the most notorious activity of the New South years, the ritualistic lynching of blacks....On broader issues of black-white relations...Ayers also has new insights....Read alongside Woodward's Origins, Ayers's book deepens and enriches our sense of the diversity and complexity of southern life and cautions against sweeping generalizations that will not bear close examination in the light of careful empirical research....Many insights into the experiences of people of both races during a challenging and unsettling period."--George M. Fredrickson, The New York Review of Books

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