The Long Shadow of the Civil War

Eric Foner reviews The Long Shadow of the Civil War for The Nation magazine

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, has written a joint review of Stephanie McCurry’s Confederate Reckoning and Victoria Bynum’s Long Shadow of the Civil War for the August 2/9 issue of The Nation magazine:

My thanks to Professor Foner for providing such a thorough and sensitive reading of both books.

Vikki Bynum, moderator

7 replies »

  1. Hi Vikki,
    Wow, what a wonderful review of your work! Vikki–I can feel it happening… I think the bug has bitten me. I am becoming mesmerized by the “Old South” too! I have a lot on my plate–but can’t wait to read your book: The Long Shadow of the Civil War. I do appreciate learning that the entire South did not support slavery. I actually had never heard that. Thank you for bringing this out in your book (I can’t wait go get the full details on this matter!).

    I think it is also interesting that some of the descendants of Newt Knight “assimilated” or “passed”. I have truly often wondered what happened to many people of mixed heritage. For instance, haven’t you ever wondered what happened to Thomas Jefferson’s children and descendants with Sally Hemmings? I feel certain that they all probably “passed”–but where are their descendants now?
    One last point–I don’t guess it really matters–but I am trying to verify reports that Lincoln was an atheist. Do you know?


  2. Thanks for your interesting comments, Ms T A.

    I think many people find history fascinating when they move beyond conventional interpretations or stereotypes about the past. I know I had no use for history as a high school student!

    In regard to race, we are far more “mixed” than many people realize. The whole idea of “race” itself has been socially and legally constructed, and has little to do with biology. DNA tests are increasingly revealing how diverse most people’s ancestry is.

    The descendants of Jefferson and Hemings now meet with other Jefferson descendants at family reunions. I remember seeing a family on television once who knew they were descended from jefferson, but were surprised to learn it was from Jefferson and Hemings, rather than from his wife.

    My understanding about Lincoln is that he was highly spiritual, but unconventional in his religious beliefs.



  3. Dr Bynum,

    What a pleasant surprise to flip open my copy of The Nation and find a book review by Eric Foner that discusses your work. I was briefly scanning the article on the train and my eyes zeroed in on “Free State of Jones.” Then I saw Bynum, and I knew this had to be my former thesis advisor from TSU. After that I began reading in earnest. Great review. Can’t wait to pick up Long Shadow of the Civil War.

    D. Gabriel- Phd student at SUNY Stonybrook;
    Spring 2004 M.A. grad.


    • Dexter, it is wonderful to hear from you! I was just asking a colleague about you, wondering how your graduate studies are coming along. It was a pleasure working with you on your M. A. thesis–I expect great things from you someday! Please drop me an email when you get the chance and let me know how your work is coming along.

      And thanks for your good words–I’ll be eager to hear what you think of Long Shadow.

      Your former thesis advisor,


  4. Hi Vikki,

    What a great review of a great book. Foner is an outstanding scholar, as are you. I truly believe that The Long Shadow of the Civil War has provided the necessary scholarly basis for future exploration of the history of dissent in the South. You did not pound upon a theory; instead you let the history tell itself, and tell itself it did. To me, that is far more revelatory of true history, because theories and theses to be proven tend to shape what information is presented and how it is presented.

    I have been very busy lately and am just catching up on the blogs. There is a new blog that is well worth the time of your readers and that you might consider putting on your blogroll, if I may suggest that. The title of the blog is Dead Confederates, and it is written by Andy Hall. The blog is insightful, well written, and balanced in presentation.

    As always, I truly appreciate your willingness to share the knowledge that you have accumulated over the years. Sherree


  5. Sherree,

    It is great to hear from you again! Thanks for your good words about Eric Foner’s review of Long Shadow of the Civil War and about the book itself. As you grasp so well, I am a historian who prefers to put story first, theory second. I find that when I do that, it encourages–even forces–me to dig more deeply into the history of the individual and community that I am writing about. Putting theory first, as you indicate, often results in a superficial understanding of the human beings involved. It can also distort the context of their actions beyond recognition.

    Thanks also for recommending Andy Hall’s blog. I’ll pay it a visit very soon, and perhaps report on it here on Renegade South.

    Let’s stay in touch!



  6. Vikki,

    You are so welcome. The book continues to grow in my thinking, and I read it several months ago. I expect that I will be thinking about the book, and about things you have said, several years from now as well. Your scholarship has that kind of staying power.

    It is great to hear from you, too. Also, what you have said is so true! History is about battles, numbers, movements, and big sweeps of history. Yet, it is about people, too, and often the most astute insights come from the study of those people as people. The Free State of Jones and Long Shadow of the Civil War beautifully illustrate that, and so much more.

    Yes, we will stay in touch. It is so good to know that you are out there somewhere, thinking and writing, or maybe drinking a cup of coffee or tea. It is truly good to know. Sherree


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