Race, Reconstruction, and Memory in Postwar Richmond

Here’s a really outstanding and fascinating lecture by Ranger Mike Gorman on post-Civil War Richmond. He’s unearthed some really great stories. This was a Banner Lecture at the Virginia Historical Society.

The video’s description reads, “On October 12 at 5:30 p.m., Michael D. Gorman delivered a Banner Lecture entitled ‘A Manner Which Would Not Have Been Permitted Towards Slaves’: Race, Reconstruction, and Memory in Postwar Richmond.”’ The Civil War in Virginia may have ended at Appomattox, but for those affected by war, additional intense times lay ahead. How did the people of Richmond cope with the sudden influx of paroled prisoners, the presence of northern occupation forces, a devastated city, and the overwhelming refugee crisis that came in the form of thousands of newly emancipated slaves? This lecture explores Reconstruction at the symbolic center of rebellion through a detailed analysis of newly available sources, highlighting how little attention has been given to the actual events and practical realities of Reconstruction. Richmond’s rebuilding was replete with racial violence and white resistance, quite at odds with what is popularly believed about Reconstruction in Virginia.”



  1. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

    I do believe that Ranger Gorman has accomplished the impossible: He has humanized Reconstruction! I wish that I could reach across the great digital divide and shake his hand for this, because this story so desperately needs to be told, and more importantly, people need to be interested enough to listen when it is told. Recently, I learned the simple correlation between owning shoes and freedom for the slave. I now realize that the journey was not over when the slave finally did walk away from the plantation, rather, it was only the beginning of a different, but equally perilous journey.

    Most of my CW friends are not interested in the study of Reconstruction, and they view it as a separate entity relegated to elective status, rather than as a compulsory Civil War topic. Au contraire mon frère! I feel that if one is going to study the Civil War, than he must study the whole war, which includes Reconstruction as the continued, political extension of the war. The challenge. however, is to pursue Reconstruction, and retain the enthusiasm that buoys one through the study of the first four years of the Civil War. After this video, I believe the answer lies in just what Ranger Gorman has succeeded in doing: Humanizing Reconstruction by presenting it in “micro-histories” — bringing the lens in closer, and introducing us to the names, places, and people who lived through Reconstruction.

    1. Reconstruction is, in my view, the most important subject ignored by many and the least understood American History subject by the most people.

      1. Shoshana Bee · · Reply

        If you get rid of the “the” in front of “most people” this concise statement is 140 characters. Its worth shouting from the digital mountain top 🙂

        1. Well, I wasn’t looking to create a tweet, and doing so would change the meaning of my statement. 🙂

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