The Jewish historian Eric Foner explains how his family background in radical Jewish socialist politics influenced his imaginative “reinterpretation” of Reconstruction era. Naturally, his sympathies are with the Radical Republicans, whose project Foner calls America’s Unfinished Revolution.
Why did the South secede from the Union?
“Secessionist emissaries spread a nightmare vision of Republican rule. One warned of consigning Southern daughters “to pollution and violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans.” Another predicted political equality, which meant “black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything.” These overwrought fears made effective rhetoric, but they would be difficult to shake when emancipation and equal suffrage became a reality.”
The secessionists warned Kentucky and Missouri of what would happen to America if the Black Republicans were allowed to triumph and they decided to remain within the Union. Every single bit of it came true after the war.
“Even if disunion resulted in war, Yancey declared, rather than live under a government that violated the Constitution “and places me in a position inferior to the Northern free negro,” he would gather a corps of brave men who, “however few in number, would find a grave which the world would recognize, my countrymen, as a modern Thermopylae against invading Persians.”