Why did northern whites support a limited set of rights for blacks during Reconstruction, but then abandon them in the 1870s, and do little to stop the racial violence of the 1880s and beyond? Two new books shed important new light on such questions.
For scholars on race in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nothing in a recent official article on race and the priesthood was new. The forthright treatment of the subject, however, including repudiating myths that had been used to legitimate the ban on black men from the priesthood until 1978, was a matter of rejoicing for many longtime advocates of racial equality within Mormonism. The heroes of this story, however, are the black members of the LDS Church who refused to leave despite being afforded second-class status.
Until fairly recently, scholars have not known very much about the everyday lives of enslaved African Americans. But in the past 20 years a wealth of historical studies has lent considerable insight into the worlds of the men, women and children held in bondage in North America. We now know a great deal about how they worked, worshiped, ate and attempted to keep their families together.
Seven years in the writing, this is a significant and comprehensive history of African Americans and their quest for recognition in the Episcopal Church. It completes a trilogy that began with George Freeman Bragg's History of the Afro-American Group (1922) and continued with Harold Lewis's Yet with a Steady Beat (1996).
This history of African Americans is a quintessentially American history. It presents the perspective of a people who have been among the most eloquent voices for and embodiments of America's cherished ideals of the essential liberty and equality of all people, the right to self-determination and the pursuit of happiness, the sanctity of individual life, and equality before the law.