Sunday, August 9, 2009

Web Review: After Slavery

African American historian and sociologist W.E.B. DuBois once said that after the Civil War "The slave went free, stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery." Why? What caused this? How true his interpretation?

Reconstruction is without a doubt in my mind one of the most misunderstood and most under-taught periods of American history. It is refreshing therefore to find a new website that is dedicated to presenting information to the public to help them learn more about this contentious era. After Slavery: Race, Labor and Politics in the Post-Emancipation Carolinas ( )has been developed by four professors as a collaborative and international "work-in-progress" effort to help correct these past errors.

Professor Brian Kelly and PhD candidate Daniel Brown from Queens University Belfast, Professor Bruce Baker from the University of London-Royal Holloway, and Professor Susan O'Donovan from the University of Memphis, have put in significant work in creating a user-friendly and educationally beneficial website. They claim on they homepage - and I heartily contend - that "An honest and rigorous confrontation with the past is an essential element in grappling with the dilemmas we face in our own time."

The homepage is text-heavy, but the information they present is important and lays a good foundation to the other page options. The other pages include, "About the Project," which gives a good overview of their goal and short bios on the individuals involved in this effort. "Online Classroom" offers classroom units that educators can utilize in the classroom, or that individuals can complete for personal edification. These unites contain transcribed primary source documents, and they also offer publications "for further reading," which many teachers will appreciate. The "Online Library" is an extensive bibliography that provides a listing of secondary sources on Reconstruction in a broad sense and also different aspects of that topic, as well as more focused sources specifically on Reconstruction in North Carolina and South Carolina. The "News and Events" page lists conferences and projects that are being conducted that involve Reconstruction. "Podcasts" appears to currently only have one video of presentation, but as with much of the site, the contributors maintain it is a work-in-progress. "Links" give the reader a number of different online resources to learn more about Reconstruction. And, wisely the authors of the site have included tabs to provide "Feedback" and to "Contact Us" to give your thoughts and suggestions as the project goes forward.

With much of students' learning turning more and more toward e-formats, sites such as After Slavery are significant to give those learners options and to provide documented and clear interpretations of Reconstruction and other misunderstood periods in America's history.

I will close with another quote from the homepage that I found particularly well stated and that is a reason I find Reconstruction so fascinating. "Still, most fundamentally the process of emancipation was about bringing about an end to a system of forced labor, and at the root of the bitter conflict that developed after 1865 was a confrontation between freed slaves and their former masters over what freedom would mean, over the question of 'How free is free.'" Nicely put. Let the learning begin.


  1. Tim,

    Many thanks for the review; we value your comments. One very minor correction: Daniel Brown is a reseach student at QUB, currently working on a doctorate on the Freedmen's Bureau in North Carlina.

  2. Brian,
    Thanks for the correction.