Reconstruction's Ragged Edge: The Politics of Postwar Life in the Southern Mountains By Steven Nash

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Pat Young

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Reconstruction's Ragged Edge: The Politics of Postwar Life in the Southern Mountains By Steven E. Nash Published by University of North Carolina Press (2016) $39.95 Hardcover, $27,95 Paperback, $9.99 Kindle.

@DRW is one of the few real experts on Reconstruction on Civil War Talk. When I first started seriously studying the subject four or five years ago I asked him for good overviews of the subject. He told me that while books like Foner's Reconstruction were important to read, the experiences of Reconstruction differed so much, depending on locality, that state by state or regional studies were the only way to see how the "Reconstruction Era" looked to people on the ground.

I have read and reviewed many of the books, going back to the Dunning School volumes, focusing on individual states. Steve Nash's Reconstruction's Ragged Edge is the first study of a region within a state that i am reviewing.

The western mountain region of North Carolina was an obscure place for many Americans during its Reconstruction. If you read the New York newspapers of the day you will find in-depth articles on many parts of the South, but few mentions of the mountain counties of the Old North State. Without railroads, few people knew the area who did not already live there. Unlike other less known areas under Reconstruction governments though, the mountain region is now heavily touristed for mountain adventures, resort living, and cultural festivals, so the scenes described in Nash's book will be familiar to anyone who has gone white water rafting in the Pigeon River of taken in the allures of Ashville.

Nash begins his book by dispelling any notions that mountain life made the white people of western North Carolina more racially egalitarian. Only 10% of the population were slaves, but, writes Nash:

White mountaineers shared the South’s commitment to slavery and white supremacy. And African Americans had options in the mountain counties, some similar to and some unlike those available to freedpeople elsewhere. A limited transportation network and disparate population without a major urban area deprived former slaves of ease of movement or the community services associated with large towns and cities. (Kindle Locations 165-168).


Because of its length, this review will be spread over several installments.
 
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