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BOOK REVIEWS167 placed great value on family ties and community cohesion and struggled to maintain or reunite such strong bonds despite frequent disruptions of them by owners who recognized their slaves' intense familial attachments yet who were often forced to ignore them for economic reasons. Yet what is refreshing in Malone's work is her attention to the evolutionary nature of individual slave communities and, more important, her redefinitions of "stable" families and households in slave communities. Such stable units could and did consist of standard nuclear family households, single-parent households, solitaire households, and multiple family households. Malone notes that historians ' overemphasis of "the numbers of individuals encompassed in twoparent units detracts from the fact that the real strength of the slave community was its multiplicity of forms, its tolerance for a variety of slave families and households, its adaptability, and its acceptance of all types of families and households as functional and contributing" (258). Malone's well-written book is the most thoroughly researched study of slave family life to date and is an essential contribution to the scholarship of American slavery. If readers can find their way through the plodding statistical analysis and forgive the author's trite explanation of her book's title, they will find rich detail on the intimacy that Louisiana plantation slave families shared and a solid analysis of the family lives of those who reputedly languished in "social death" as a result of their captivity. Scholars of the slave experience will be better for their journey. Christopher Phillips Emporia State University The Freedmen's Bureau and Black Texans. By Barry A. Crouch. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992. Pp. xix, 187. $24.95.) Overreached on All Sides: The Freedmen's Bureau Administrators in Texas, 1865-1868. By William L. Richter. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991. Pp. xi, 436. $49.50.) The Freedmen's Bureau's importance as a subject for research is far greater than its own institutional significance. The agency can provide historians with an important focus with which to come to a better understanding of Reconstruction in the South. In fact, one could argue that to understand Reconstruction one must understand the Bureau. And to understand the Bureau, one must know it well at the state and local levels. Congressmen passed laws and Bureau headquarters formulated policy directives, but the state assistant commissioners and the local agents had to implement them. These individuals on the front line of Reconstruction witnessed firsthand the freedpeople's expressions of hope, learned by experience the implications of the agency's lack of resources and power, suffered the disdain of white Southerners as they went about their daily routines, and often felt the wrath of unrepentant l68CIVIL WAR history Confederates as they tried to secure justice for the ex-slaves. Surprisingly, prior to the publication of Barry Crouch's The Freedmen's Bureau and Black Texans and William Richter's Overreached on All Sides, no book-length state study of the Bureau had been published for over two decades. Now the Texas Bureau is blessed with two thoroughly researched yet very different monographs that expand our knowledge of the agency and of Reconstruction. Crouch's and Richter's books differ from earlier published state studies of the Bureau. Martin Abbott's The Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina, 1865-1872 (1967) and Howard A. White's The Freedmen's Bureau in Louisiana (1970), the two modern studies of the agency, are primarily topically arranged institutional studies of the Bureau's major functions generally from the state assistant commissioner's perspective. Richter's book for the most part retains the perspective of the state assistant commissioners but deals with their work in a chronologically arranged narrative following the vicissitudes of the agency from one administration to the next. Crouch's approach, an effort to understand the Bureau at the grass roots level, is more innovative and ultimately more satisfying. Barry Crouch is no novice when it comes to the Bureau and Reconstruction scholarship. Having published in this area for over twenty years, he has steadily expanded our knowledge of the period through a succession of articles , one of the most significant being a reminder to...


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pp. 167-171
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