Read The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction by Edward L. Ayers Online


At a public picnic in the South in the 1890s, a young man paid five cents for his first chance to hear the revolutionary Edison talking machine. He eagerly listened as the soundman placed the needle down, only to find that through the tubes he held to his ears came the chilling sounds of a lynching. In this story, with its blend of new technology and old hatreds, genteel pAt a public picnic in the South in the 1890s, a young man paid five cents for his first chance to hear the revolutionary Edison talking machine. He eagerly listened as the soundman placed the needle down, only to find that through the tubes he held to his ears came the chilling sounds of a lynching. In this story, with its blend of new technology and old hatreds, genteel picnic and mob violence, Edward Ayers captures the history of the South in the years between Reconstruction and the turn of the century--a combination of progress and reaction that defined the contradictory promise of the New South. Ranging from the Georgia coast to the Tennessee mountains, from the power brokers to tenant farmers, Ayers depicts a land of startling contrasts--a time of progress and repression, of new industries and old ways. Ayers takes us from remote Southern towns, revolutionized by the spread of the railroads, to the statehouses where Democratic "Redeemers" swept away the legacy of Reconstruction; from the small farmers, trapped into growing nothing but cotton, to the new industries of Birmingham; from abuse and intimacy in the family to tumultuous public meetings of the prohibitionists. He explores every aspect of society, politics, and the economy, detailing the importance of each in the emerging New South. Here is the local Baptist congregation, the country store, the tobacco-stained second-class railroad car, the rise of Populism: the teeming, nineteenth-century South comes to life in these pages. And central to the entire story is the role of race relations, from alliances and friendships between blacks and whites to the spread of Jim Crow laws and disenfranchisement. Ayers weaves all these details into the contradictory story of the New South, showing how the region developed the patterns it was to follow for the next fifty years. When Edward Ayers published Vengeance and Justice, a landmark study of crime and punishment in the nineteenth-century South, he received wide acclaim. Now he provides an unforgettable account of the New South--a land with one foot in the future and the other in the past....

Title : The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction
Author :
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ISBN : 9780195085488
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 592 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction Reviews

  • Jessi
    2019-05-31 19:00

    Ayers evocatively writes of both the promise and disadvantage of the "New South" of the 1880's and 1890's. In the end, he makes a strong case what limited the south the most on the national scene was its brutal legacy of racism, segregation, disenfranchisement, and lynching.

  • David Bates
    2019-05-24 16:43

    Edward L. Ayers’ 1992 work The Promise of the New South is in many ways a complimentary work to Woodward’s Origins of the New South, drawing on an intervening generation of scholarship to craft a social history of Southern life in the aftermath of Reconstruction. Ayers’ South is a region emerging from a past of turmoil and devastation, in which “symmetrical rows of slave cabins had been knocked into a jumble of tenant shacks” and “fields grew wild because it did not pay to farm them. Children came upon bones and rusting weapons when they played in the woods.” Rather than defining the people of the post-Redemption South by their poverty and increasingly institutionalized injustice, Ayers seeks to recapture the hopeful spirit many felt in those years, and the yearning for “a fresh start, a chance to catch up with the rest of the nation while avoiding the mistakes of the North.” Everywhere Southerners of both races were on the move, seeking better lives down roads and expanding railways, settling in the new villages and towns that were rising to become the focal points of rural county life. If the terrors of Redemption were fresh memory, the world that emerged from its fire and ash was no blessed salvation. As a correspondent of the Atlantic Monthly wrote in 1882, “there was everywhere a sense of hollowness, of the unreality of the issues and grounds of dispute between the parties; a half-suppressed cry – sometimes agonizing in its intensity . . . They were ‘waiting for a chance,’ to use an expression which one constantly hears from them.’” Ayers’ captures the expanding horizons, cultural invention and tortuous economic frustrations that defined lives, but also the passionate reaching out of Southerners for a world which in many ways always fell short of being born. “You stand for the yearning, upward tendency of the middle and lower classes” Ayers quotes Tom Watson as calling to a gathered crowd in the winter of 1892. Here he follows Woodward more than halfway in his interpretation of the Populist groundswell; the last and greatest of many moments of burning promise before the ominous silence of the Solid South took hold. Focused on the social dimensions of Southern history, Ayers’ account is free to focus on the regional consequence of the failure of the People’s Party rather than engaging Woodward’s larger historical framework.

  • Samantha
    2019-05-27 20:43

    so.....this book read like a textbook. one faith you inject into the author of a book on an historical subject is that they will color their account with as much personality as historical observation allows. yet, instead of providing adequate criticism of the new south, as such a title like "Promise" would, well, promise, it read like a grocery list of aspects of the new south lifestyle. the most interesting chapter was the one on POPULISM, arguably the least exciting subject in American history, so Kudos for that, and any dissection of black life was relegated to a paragraph's worth of material shoved in at the end of each chapter.the parts about rural to urban migration proved rather entertaining, insomuch as, people at the end of the 19th century in the south are retards, and the subject really writes itself. additionally, any parts about religion were good reads.he reserves the last TEN pages of a 440 page book about the horrifying circumstances confronting the black population as a whole, so that was a little disturbing.add in two convoluted and useless chapters about music and literature, a lot of incoherent sentence structure, at least 20 grammatical errors, too many commas...and, voila, 2 took me three months to make it through this book.

  • Dan Gorman
    2019-06-16 17:38

    This thorough but long volume tells the story of the South after Reconstruction failed. Ayers does a good job showing the inroads that railroads, telegraphs, and other modern technology made into the South. He makes it clear that these innovations did not disrupt a credit-based economy that tied many poor farmers — white and black — in place. And then there was the Jim Crow system, with all its violence, authoritarianism, and paranoia. I liked that Ayers devoted significant passages to the African American experience in the New South, showing in detail how black authors and intellectuals, as well as ordinary people, protested the conditions into which they were forced. Two chapters of the book felt like padding, as if Ayers wanted to shove excess material into the final draft. Yet the book remains educational and fascinating. Some passages are so elegant that they feel like a joy to read.

  • Aleksei
    2019-05-21 20:59

    An important work on Reconstruction and Gilded Age Southern life, but not a very rewarding one. His frequent use of the word "mulatto" to refer to mixed race people in his text (as opposed to in quotations) was wildly inappropriate and should have been edited when the book was reissued. I found his treatment of jazz in New Orleans overly reliant on secondary sources and showed little familiarity with working musicians or the race relations in the city that produced it. Ultimately, Ayers went too big and painted in broad strokes that left his book at once unwieldy and overwhelming. While this is a classic in modern scholarship, it is not one that I enjoyed nor would I recommend. Ayers' contribution to the field is critical, but it is time to move on. Big picture histories serve a purpose, but rarely do they serve their topics well, and this is no exception.

  • John
    2019-06-03 17:01

    A terrific, engaging look at the South just after Reconstruction ended. The book encompasses diverse subjects (books, singing, mining, politics, alliances, race, women, catalogs, logging, country life, town life, general stores, farming, trains...the list is exhaustive) and is bound to teach even the strongest of Southern scholars a thing or two about the region. It tells its story using clips from newspapers and journals, zeroing in upon the human element to depict the struggles and concerns of the people at the time. The 15th anniversary update includes a note from the author which help to frame the time period in which he worked on it, and helps the reader to get a general understanding of how he wrote it.

  • Patrick
    2019-05-30 21:46

    Magnificent history of a forgotten period and region, the South from the end of Reconstruction after the 1876 presidential election until the early Twentieth Century, when democracy (both for blacks and poor whites) was basically ground out of existence through brutality and state terrorism. Some great revelations about the Populist Party, it's threat to the existing social order, and the methods used to crush it.

  • Ted Hunt
    2019-05-30 18:49

    The best book on the post-Reconstruction South that is out there. It shows that there was not one "New South" evolving in a linear fashion, but many "souths," changing in fits and starts, in a far more complicated way than previous studies have presented. And for music fans, there is a great chapter on the music of the era, which examines the origins of the musical forms that became country, jazz, and blues.

  • Greg
    2019-05-26 20:37

    Excellent! Ayers provides a dense and demanding overview of the culture, politics, economics, religion, and arts of the New South between Reconstruction and the Atlanta Race Riots. Well written and persuasive in its arguments.