The whipping of Richard Moore, a former slave and Union veteran, in Lincoln County, Tennessee, in July 1868 was an unexceptional event in the context of Reconstruction. But its significance lies in its very ordinariness. This event--described by newspapers in Ohio and Tennessee, and concluding with the testimony of the victim--captures a full measure of the emotional forces that shaped the contours of postwar society in former Confederate states. In this microhistory of Reconstruction, Harcourt situates this event in local, state, and national contexts and uses a social theory of emotions to detail in historical terms the collision of competing interests in events and the narrative frames used by commentators to describe the event. Harcourt argues that the psychological term "hot cognition" explains how the feelings aroused by the whipping framed narratives of the event in fundamentally adversarial terms that further escalated hostilities between competing social groups. The approach taken here suggests that there is much to be gained from viewing incidents of violence not merely as catalogs of political dispute and social discord but as a means of taking the temperature on the emotive forces behind social and political behavior.

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pp. 261-282
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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