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Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South$
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William A. Link, David Brown, Brian Ward, and Martyn Bone

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780813044132

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813044132.001.0001

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Fables of the Reconstruction

Fables of the Reconstruction

The Citizen as Character

(p.201) 9 Fables of the Reconstruction
Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South

Scott Romine

University Press of Florida

Reconstruction had a distinctively literary dimension. Deviating sharply from early accounts of Reconstruction as a project of nation (re)building organized around sectional difference, the reviewer reiterates Thomas Dixon’s insistence on a narrative based in racial difference. More precisely, the relationship between citizen and character emerges-gradually at first, but with increasing force as the twentieth century approaches-as one of distance and dissonance: of a gap between, on the one hand, the citizenship inhabited by black characters who do not warrant it, and, on the other, the traumatic denial of citizenship by white characters who do. For many southern whites, the Reconstruction Acts meant disenfranchisement; for most African Americans, nominally occupying the category of citizen failed to translate into meaningful citizenship as it was understood by the nation, especially as that understanding was grounded in antebellum conceptions of self-government and racial identity. At the same time, literary accounts of these gaps bring to bear distinctive representational strategies that actively shaped the emerging “mainstream history” of Reconstruction as it was rendered legible in new contexts and put to work as a useable history in and for a rapidly evolving nation.

Keywords:   Reconstruction, Albion W. Tourgee, citizenship

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