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366CIVIL WAR HISTORY Black Legishtors in Louisiana During Reconstruction. By Charles Vincent (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976. Pp. xv, 262. $15.00.) The history of Reconstruction in Louisiana has been a subject of considerable interest of late, and Charles Vincent's book is the most recent manifestation of this historiographical trend. Grounded in solid research among manuscript sources and state records, this book is a detailed study of the 123 black men who served as state legislators in Louisiana from 1868 to 1876. Unfortunately, although the book is detailed in its coverage, this detail is included within a shallow and simplistic conceptual framework which has resulted in a study of limited use to historians of the Reconstruction period. The most important conclusion to emerge from the study is Vincent 's finding that the myth of the ignorant black legislator who served as a tool of venal Republican carpetbaggers hardly matches the reality of the positive legislative record amassed by those blacks who served in Louisiana's House of Representatives and State Senate during Reconstruction. Contrary to legend, the majority of black Louisiana legislators, rather than being ignorant, former slaves, were members of the free black class who were well educated and possessed substantial amounts of personal wealth. The author goes to great lengths to show that these individuals' legislative record was at least on a par with the whites with whom they served. Black legislators, particularly in the area of social welfare, evinced a progressive outlook and often assumed positions of leadership in pressing for reform legislation. Equally as important , these men engaged effectively in the more mundane legislative activity of working for special interest legislation on behalf of their constituents, both white and black, and were at least as successful as their white counterparts in serving the voting public. Although Vincent makes the above arguments persuasively, he never carries his analysis beyond the point of debunking a historiographical position which most scholars have long since considered outmoded. Despite the fact that black Louisiana legislators were certainly competent, they were also, as Vincent himself makes clear, a fairly conservative lot who failed to work as effectively as they might have for civil and political rights of the freedmen. One of the reasons for this failure may have been the factional struggles within the Louisiana Republican party which prevented blacks from presenting a unified political position. Additionally, the dominance of free blacks, rather than freedmen, in positions of political leadership may also have contributed to the lack of vigor with which these legislators pressed for basic reform for the former slaves. Curiously, the author never deals with these topics in a sustained manner. Perhaps he would have been aided in doing so if he had attempted to analyze statistically BOOK REVIEWS367 the voting record of his subjects. However, Vincent rarely even mentions the number of votes cast for and against various pieces of legislation, much less makes an attempt at identifying patterns of voting by blacks and whites, free blacks and freedmen, and various other legislative groupings, which may have provided insights into the political culture of Reconstruction Louisiana. Lacking the analytical tools to analyze the voting patterns of black legislators, Vincent tends to treat these individuals as a unified group when in fact he presents a significant body of impressionistic evidence that suggests otherwise. In sum, Black Legislators in Louisiana provides a detailed, factual account of the work of black state legislators in this most interesting of states. Yet to be produced, however, is an adequate analysis of the Byzantine political manueverings which marked, and marred, the record of Republicans, both black and white, in Louisiana during the era of Reconstruction. William Messner Keystone College The Phntation School. By Anthony Gerald Albanese. (New York, Washington, Atlanta, Hollywood: Vantage Press, 1976. Pp. 285. $6.95.) "The purpose of the plantation school was singular: to insure the dominance of the ruling class in an economic system which was dependent on slave labor," writes Professor Anthony G. Albanese. It did this in two ways: first, it equipped the slave with just enough knowledge to perform elemental functions of an agrarian society's laboring class; and secondly, it encouraged slaves to incorporate...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 366-367
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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