Frederick Douglass and the Periodization of Reconstruction

By Doug Egerton | Black Perspectives

When I began research on the project that finally became The Wars of Reconstruction, one question was where the saga should start, and another was where it should end. Periodization is important, of course, and one of our jobs as historians is to organize and make sense of what at first glance often appears to be random data. But periodization can also be misleading and deceptive. Frederick Douglass’s wartime and Reconstruction-era career not only reminds us how illusory standard periodization often is, it suggests new ways to conceptualize the period.

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