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Reforging the White Republic

Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898

by Edward J. Blum

Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War

376 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 15 Halftones

ebook available

American History

  Paperback / 9780807132487 / February 2007

Winner of the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship

During Reconstruction, former abolitionists in the North had a golden opportunity to pursue true racial justice and permanent reform in America. But why, after the sacrifice made by thousands of Civil War patriots to arrive at this juncture, did the moment slip away, leaving many whites throughout the North and South more racist than before? Edward J. Blum takes a fresh look at this question in Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898, where he focuses on the vital role that religion played in reunifying northern and southern whites into a racially segregated society. He tells the fascinating story of how northern Protestantism, once the catalyst for racial egalitarianism, promoted the image of a "white republic" that conflated whiteness, godliness, and nationalism. A blend of history and social science, Reforging the White Republic offers a surprising perspective on the forces of religion as well as nationalism and imperialism at a critical point in American history. 

Edward J. Blum is the coeditor of Vale of Tears: New Essays in Religion and Reconstruction. He is a fellow with the DuBois Center for the Advanced Study of Religion and Race at the University of Notre Dame.

Winner of the 2004 C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize of the Southern Historical Association.

Praise for Reforging the White Republic

“This is an important and troubling book. . . . Carefully and deeply researched, elegantly and effectively organized, and passionately argued, this is a welcome and significant addition to the field.”—Journal of Southern History

“Imaginative, provocative, and expansively researched, Reforging the White Republic offers an important twist to surveys of Reconstruction-era America.”—Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Reforging the White Republic is an important work that adds to the literature on race relations during the three decades after the end of the Civil War. By emphasizing the importance of religion in the conflation of whiteness and nationalism, Blum illuminates a heretofore neglected part of the historical record.”—The Historian

“Edward J. Blum brings even more pathos to an already tragic chapter in American History. . . . Blum’s sensitivity to religious belief and practice enables him to show the intellectual and emotional pathways that white Northerners followed to sectional harmony with new clarity. . . . A powerful read.”—Callaloo

“A very readable blend of history and social science.”—Cross Currents

“I heartily recommend Blum's book for its close attention to the vitality of religious discourse in debates about the course of national destiny and his attempt to place religion alongside other explanations that have been offered to interpret historical shifts that produced a society where blacks were victims of lynching and political disfranchisement.”—Church History

“By presenting a fresh, albeit troubling and hardly uplifting, perspective on a familiar era in American history, [Blum] has certainly provided a more sophisticated, if equally more unsettling, understanding of how Americans threw away their last, best hope for racial equality and a truly civic and inclusive nationalism in the years following the Civil War.”—H-CivWar

“What Blum has done, with great skill, is add a new dimension to a familiar story. He reminds us of the enduring power of religion in public discourse—how it was used, in this instance, to bring feuding whites together on the basis of race. It’s a sad lesson, well worth remembering.”—Nation

“This is a fine book. Blum’s work brings a fascinating new perspective to the story of Reconstruction, one that no doubt will excite further scholarly investigation.”—Civil War History

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