Collisions of Conflict

Studies in American History and Culture, 1820-1920

by Jerzy Sobieraj (Author)
©2014 Monographs 149 Pages


This book explores and analyzes the problems and challenges that have resulted from the Civil War, Reconstruction, slavery, and segregation in North America. These painful chapters in American history have continued along racial and regional lines and are of particular interest today when the USA are for the first time governed by an African American president. The postscriptum extends the main narrative by focusing on selected writers’ activities and fiction during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 The Seeds of War: From the Missouri Compromise to Secession
  • Chapter 2 Fighting Slavery: Various Shades of Abolitionism
  • Chapter 3 Lincoln and the Civil War
  • Chapter 4 Black Learning, Land, and Labor in the Reconstruction South
  • Chapter 5 The Invisible Empire: The Short Career of the First Ku Klux Klan and Its Rebirth
  • Chapter 6 Years of Shame: Lynching in the United States from the 1880s to the Great War
  • Chapter 7 “Wounded in the House of Our Friends”: Segregation in the Republic
  • Postscripts
  • 1. The Civil War and the Writer
  • 2. The Literature of Reconstruction
  • Chronology
  • Works Cited
  • Index of Names
  • Series Index

| 11 →


My deepest gratitude, difficult to express in words, goes to Professor Samuel Coale of Wheaton College, Massachusetts, whose help, comments, and advice on this project were priceless. The project could not be developed without the invitation from the English Department of Brown University; my special thanks go to Professor Philip Gould, head of the department, and Professor Stephen Foley whose assistance was more than outstanding. As a visiting scholar I had access to numerous resources indispensable to complete this project. My work was easier due to professionalism and kindness of the librarians at Brown’s Rockefeller Library.

I also appreciate the support of my Polish friends and colleagues, Professor Marta Wiszniowska of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw and Professor Piotr Skurowski of Warsaw’s University of Social Sciences and Humanities. I cannot omit mentioning a grant received from the latter institution, which was much help in my work on this project.

I am extremely grateful to my wife, Ewa, my daughter, Kasia, and her husband, Staś, for their constant interest and support.

| 13 →


One of the fruits of the Civil War was the legislation abolishing slavery and guaranteeing all citizens of the United States the right to vote. African Americans, yesterday’s slaves, could for the first time be legally elected to significant positions at the local, state, and federal level. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, abolishing slavery, passed during the Civil War and ratified in December, 1865, became at that time, as some stated, the most important legal act in American history. More than 140 years ago in 1868, all Americans including the newly freed slaves, could vote in the presidential election, and later several black activists were elected to important state-level and federal offices. Hiram Rhodes Revels of Mississippi became the first African American to sit in the United States Senate in 1870 and 1871.

After the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, Wendell Phillips, abolitionist and human rights activist, exclaimed, “We have washed color out of the constitution” (qtd. in Quarles, The Negro 138). African Americans, realizing its significance, celebrated the event in all parts of the country. During one of such celebrations, Frederick Douglass, former slave and well-known activist, exulted: “We have a future, everything is possible to us” (138). Neither “black codes,” limiting the rights of African Americans, nor the activity of the Ku Klux Klan, often aimed at creating obstacles that would prevent freedmen from participating in elections, killed this belief in a better future.

On May 17, 1954, the eve of the fifty eighth anniversary of the sanctioning of racial segregation, the Supreme Court announced its decision in the case Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, et al. that ended, de jure, racial segregation in the United States, though practically it only legalized the long process of desegregation.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous Washington speech, / Have a Dream, in which he reminded Americans of the dream which defined the essence of their culture and civilization, the ← 13 | 14 → dream about equal rights for all, of the brotherhood of all Americans, in which the descendants of the slaves would not be judged on the basis of the color of their skin but by virtue of their character, about an America in which young, dark-skinned Americans would be able to shake hands with their white peers. When this happens, concluded King, all Americans, irrespective of their faith and the color of their skin, would be able to sing the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The election of Barack Obama as president in 2008 for many Americans, irrespective of color, fulfilled the hopes that King expressed 45 years earlier. Magic Johnson and Michael Moore talking to CNN interviewer, Larry King, admitted that they never thought that what happened in the fall of 2008 could ever happen in their lifetime. Jesse Jackson, whose tears after the returns were shown on almost every television station, defined the reason for this display of emotion as both “pain and joy,” probably referring to the long and painful journey African Americans were forced to undertake to witness this moment, taking great pride in what had happened. In 1920, if anybody had expressed the conviction that in less than a hundred years an African American would become the president of the United States, he could have been at worst brutally treated by a local Klan or declared at best insane. Many years also had to pass before a majority of the citizens in Indiana and Virginia decided to vote for an African American as president.

Many commentators gave many reasons for Obama’s victory. Some acknowledged the national disappointment with the Bush presidency; some even talked about a politically liberal breakthrough. More than 60 percent of young Americans voted for Barack Obama, including more than 50 percent of women. Perhaps many saw in him the symbol of their own fight for equal rights or of their own belief in a better future. Many emphasized the fact that America after this election became a new, “post-racial” country. In his speech after having been elected, Barack Obama addressed the people gathered at a rally in Chicago’s Grand Park: “This is your victory.” He was also aware of the fact that it was not only in recent decades that made his election possible but that it was also the long history of injustice and conflict that brought him and Americans to this moment: ← 14 | 15 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (May)
Sklaverei The Civil War Bürgerkrieg Segregation Rassismus, Lynching Du Bois, W. E. B. Washington. Booker T.
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 149 pp.

Biographical notes

Jerzy Sobieraj (Author)

Jerzy Sobieraj’s research is in the American literature and history of the 19th and 20th centuries with a special focus on the American South. The first Polish monograph about the Ku Klux Klan is among his books. He teaches courses on American literature, culture, and history at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw (Poland). He has also taught Southern fiction at the Universitat Jaume I in Spain. As a recipient of several academic grants, he did research at Brown University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Vanderbilt University. Professor Sobieraj is currently working on a book-length study of the Civil-War era.


Title: Collisions of Conflict
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
152 pages