Books by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The abolition of slavery in the aftermath of the Civil War is a familiar story, as is the civil rights revolution that transformed the nation. But the century in between remains a mystery: if emancipation sparked "a new birth of freedom" in Lincoln's America, why was it necessary to march in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s America? In this new book, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of our leading chroniclers of the African-American experience, seeks to answer that question in a history of the Reconstruction Era. Through his close reading of the visual culture of this tragic era, Gates reveals the many faces of Jim Crow and uncovers the roots of structural racism in our own time, while showing how African Americans after slavery articulated a vision of a "New Negro" to force the nation to recognize their humanity.
The story Gates tells begins with great hope, with Union victory and the liberation of nearly 4 million enslaved African-Americans. Until 1877, the federal government, goaded by the activism of Frederick Douglass and many others, tried to sustain their new rights. But white paramilitary groups in the former Confederacy, combined with a loss of Northern will, restored "home rule" to the South. The retreat from Reconstruction was followed by one of the most violent periods in our history, with thousands of black people murdered and many more afflicted by Jim Crow segregation.
An essential tour through one of America's fundamental historical tragedies, Stony the Road is also a story of heroic resistance, as figures such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells fought to create a counter-narrative, and culture, inside the lion's mouth. As sobering as this tale is, it also has within it the inspiration that comes with encountering the hopes our ancestors advanced against the longest odds.