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Reviews253 other prominent blacks and a white Northerner after having made what local white men considered an "incendiary speech about the white people putting them in slavery." And the list goes on. Freedom's Lawmakers is an extraordinarily valuable reference source, not only as a place to find the details of a particular black officeholder's life, but also as a collective portrait of a regional black leadership, the first in the South's history. It is on the latter score, however, that Foner falters somewhat. The generalizations he draws are for the most part strictly descriptive. What the dynamics of that emerging regional leadership might have been is left to the reader to infer. Foner, for example, draws attention to the diversity of experience among black officeholders but does not comment on what that diversity meant to black communities throughout the South. On the one hand, the region might have produced a variety of leaders who brought several constituencies into one big tent, and therein lies an explanation for the extraordinary success of southern black people in putting together an effective regional leadership less than one generation after slavery. On the other hand, a variety of leaders may have resulted in a fractured leadership, ultimately dependent on the whims of white allies to represent the interests of black people in the South. As Foner's own sketches show, wealthy and distinguished black leaders often deliberately kept their distance from their less fortunate brethren, and field hands had their suspicions about fast-talking politicians, including black ones, from distant places. In this sense Freedom's Lawmakers raises more questions than it answers. Freedom's Lawmakers offers both inspiring and depressing reading for those interested in African American history. Taken together with Foner's own synthesis of Reconstruction politics, this work makes accessible to a wide audience a wealth of detail about the lives of the first regional black leadership in American history and suggests or implies by its selection of detail new directions for reassessing that leadership in its own time. The sketches also raise pertinent questions about black leaders in the South today. Can there be one big tent in a black community of diverse class, religious, and local interests? If so who can effectively lead the large and fractious congregation in that tent? In light of these questions the trials and tribulations of heretofore obscure black officeholders take on new meanings and deserve closer study, which is possible thanks in part to Foner's devoted labor. The Letters of a Victorian Madwoman. Edited by John S. Hughes. University of South Carolina Press, 1993. 260 pp. Cloth, $24.95. Reviewed by Anastatia Sims, who is associate professor of history at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia. Her research focuses on women's voluntary associations in early twentieth-century North Carolina. She is a tap dancer, a country music fan, and a renowned letter writer. It sounds like the plot of a Victorian melodrama. A woman with the improbable name of Andrew becomes addicted to narcotics and has an affair with the doctor who supplies her drugs. He persuades her to set fire to the home of one of his enemies. She is caught in the act and anested. Shortly thereafter her outraged father murders the man who has "ruined" his daughter and has Andrew committed to the state insane asylum. 254Southern Cultures This story may sound like fiction, but it is true. In July 1890 forty-one-year-old Andrew Moore Sheffield entered Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; she remained there until her death thirty years later. During her confinement she wrote numerous letters to public officials and hospital staff. More than ninety of these have been preserved in hospital files and in the Alabama state archives and are published for the first time in this collection. The letters reveal a great deal about gender roles in the New South and about daily life in a mental institution. They also raise intriguing questions about definitions of sanity and insanity and how society draws the boundary between the two. Above all, they are windows into the mind of Andrew Moore Sheffield, an intelligent yet disturbed woman, whose strong will remained...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 253-255
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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