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.
Books change. They change us individually and collectively. Tom Paine’s direct style convinced countless colonists that it was Common Sense to become an independent nation. Henry David Thoreau lectured New England college students that they were better off hand-crafting knives than they were sitting in stuffy classrooms. He influenced Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe of Nancy Koester’s new biography is not the one with which most readers are familiar—the “little woman who made this big war,” as Abraham Lincoln reportedly said about the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.