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T H E A L A B A M A R E V I E W 232 president, he guided the forces of change as they finally overcame the southern caucus. Until 1946, most senators joined their southern colleagues in opposing cloture. From that point onward, southern senators fought to repel efforts to modify the chamber’s unique filibuster rule as a first line of defense. In 1957 southerners accepted a watered-down Civil Rights Act upon realization that a filibuster would fail and prompt angry northerners to pass more effective legislation. The South’s resort to a full-blown filibuster of the sweeping 1964 Civil Rights Act came as a last desperate effort in a battle that Russell and others knew they could not win. Much like the Civil War South to which southern senators often alluded , they won many skirmishes before losing the war. “Caucus members,” Finley concludes, “carried on a successful rearguard battle that delayed the collapse of segregation far longer than anything that occurred on the state level” (p. 309). CHARLES S. BULLOCK III University of Georgia Splendid Failure: Postwar Reconstruction in the American South. By Michael W. Fitzgerald. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee Publishers, 2007. x, 234 pp. $26.00 (cloth). ISBN 978-1-56663-734-3. $16.95 (paper). ISBN 978-1-56663739 -8. For more than twenty years, Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (New York, 1988) and A Short History of Reconstruction (New York, 1990) have introduced a wide variety of readers to the turbulent period that followed the American Civil War. Since the publication of Foner’s books, however, the study of Reconstruction as a set historical period and as a social, political, economic, and cultural process has evolved significantly. Scholars have advanced our understanding of gender relations within the household, African American political activities before and after emancipation, the effects of Reconstruction on regions beyond the South, and several other related topics. Such recent scholarship has underscored the need for a new synthetic treatment of Reconstruction, which Michael Fitzgerald’s Splendid Failure: Postwar Reconstruction in the American South strives to fulfill. Fitzgerald summarizes Reconstruction “as a contest between those who attempted the doomed, but mostly right thing, and those who were doing the very wrong thing and prevailed. But only for a time” (p. 212). These sentences conclude a survey of Reconstruction that encom- J U L Y 2 0 1 0 233 passes chapters on slavery, emancipation, Andrew Johnson’s failed selfReconstruction policy toward the South, the Ku Klux Klan’s violent campaign to reclaim home rule and reassert white supremacy, changes in gender and social conventions, and redemption with a moralistic eye on what might have been had the postwar conflict over the meaning of citizenship within the United States turned out differently. Although not a purely chronological narrative, Splendid Failure provides a solid overview of Reconstruction that keeps the experience of southern freedpeople at its heart. It also layers political, social, and economic development upon that foundation, giving readers an appreciation for the interrelated issues confronting the country after the war. The title of the book raises an obvious question: why did Reconstruction “fail”? White southern Republicans garner some blame for that outcome , but Fitzgerald places the greater burden of guilt upon the North. “Ultimately it would be the Northern public and its anti-slavery majority ,” Fitzgerald argues, “that determined the prospects for a different South” (p. 21). That majority’s dedication to change faded quickly. The northern public’s conclusion that reshaping the South was no longer worth the effort doomed those “who attempted . . . the mostly right thing.” Without northern support, white southern Republicans and their African American allies could not withstand the ferocious onslaught in the late 1860s and early 1870s. In short, northern advocates of African Americans’ rights lacked the wherewithal to sustain the struggle against conservative white southerners determined to recapture control over their region by any means necessary. Although Splendid Failure generally accomplishes the author’s goal, two issues may limit its broader influence. The first is functional. A popular or undergraduate reader will not object to the absence of footnotes, but for graduate students and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-9961
Print ISSN
0002-4341
Pages
pp. 232-234
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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