Eric Foner

Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia and the author of many books on Reconstruction, including The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2010), which won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2011.

Defanged: Deifying King

Eric Foner, 5 October 2023

In March​ 1968, only a few days before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr visited Long Beach, a suburb of New York City, at the invitation of a local NAACP leader. Like many suburbs at that time, Long Beach was effectively a segregated community, with an African American population living in a tiny ghetto and working in the homes of local white families. I grew up in Long Beach, but...

George Wallace was elected governor in 1962, for the first of four terms. ‘Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,’ he proclaimed in his inaugural address. The central theme of his speech, however, was not segregation but freedom, a word he used 25 times. With a keen sense of political theatre, he created an indelible image for TV by blocking the doorway of the University of Alabama’s registration building to prevent the court-ordered admission of the first Black students. He withdrew and the students entered. But he had made himself a national standard-bearer for white freedom.

Double V: Military Racism

Eric Foner, 2 March 2023

In American​ popular memory, the Second World War remains the ‘good war’, fought, to borrow the title of Tom Brokaw’s 1998 book, by the ‘greatest generation’. It is remembered as a time of national unity that not only destroyed tyrannies overseas but assimilated young men from all regions and ethnic backgrounds into a shared American identity. The war in...

During the​ 1950s and 1960s, a generation of academics rose to prominence in the United States with books and essays that breached the wall separating the university and the broader public. Many of them were historians, including Daniel Boorstin, Richard Hofstadter and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Invocations of history punctuated debates over the Cold War, civil rights and Vietnam. But none of...

‘I’m  not a member of an organised political party,’ the American comedian Will Rogers declared. ‘I’m a Democrat.’ When Rogers made this remark, in the early 1930s, the party was just emerging from a decade of disorganisation and defeat. Riven by divisions over Prohibition, immigration, religion and the Ku Klux Klan, Democrats had suffered...

Reconstruction was under attack from the outset. There was never a consensus on its legitimacy, and in the end it sank under the weight of racism, indifference, fatigue, administrative weakness, economic...

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A Topic Best Avoided: Abraham Lincoln

Nicholas Guyatt, 1 December 2011

On the evening of 11 April 1865, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd in Washington about black suffrage. The Civil War had been over for a week. Lincoln had already walked the streets of Richmond,...

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During the war and after the war

J.R. Pole, 11 January 1990

With the passing of generations, the Civil War will lose its chronological centrality in American history, and may well come to be regarded, not so much as the great crisis of the very principle...

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