The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990

"Unmanacling" Texas Reconstruction:
A Twenty-Year Perspective
BARRY A. CROUCH *
RECONSTRUCTION HISTORIOGRAPHY HAS GONE THROUGH THREE DIS-
cernible phases: the Dunning, the revisionist, and the postrevi-
sionist stages. The oldest interpretation stressed the South's unfortu-
nate experience with Reconstruction, espousing the view that Radicals
had forced full black citizenship rights upon a conquered Southern so-
ciety. The revisionist argument concentrated upon the successes of the
era and the significant contributions made by Afro-Americans; it de-
stroyed the idea that Reconstruciton was a time of economic rape and
plunder. The postrevisionist reaction has stressed the conservatism
of the national and state legislators and the programs that they en-
acted. Additionally, the latter school has emphasized the importance of
class as opposed to race. Reconstruction really changed little, the post-
revisionists argue, leaving black Southerners in a precarious condition.'
In the past two decades Texas Reconstruction scholarship has gener-
ated a substantial body of secondary works. Significantly, this new his-
toriography has challenged most historical perceptions and interpreta-
tions about the postwar years; most notably, revisionist studies have
questioned the classic Dunning school position articulated for Presi-
dential Reconstruction by Charles W. Ramsdell and for the Radical Re-
publican years by William C. Nunn. Although the historiography of
Texas during Reconstruction went through similar changes, revisionist
works were never fully incorporated into the few general surveys of the
*Barry A. Crouch is professor of history at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. He is
coauthor of A Place of Their Own: Creating the Deaf Community in America (1989). Crouch has
published extensively on blacks and the Freedmen's Bureau during Texas Reconstruction and
has just completed a manuscript entitled "Guardian of the Freedpeople: The Freedmen's Bu-
reau and Black Texans during Reconstruction."
The comments and criticisms of Arnoldo De Le6n, Larry Madaras, Cecil Harper, Jr., Donaly
E. Brice, and Randolph B. Campbell were invaluable.
'Michael Perman, Emancipation and Reconstruction, 1862-1879 (Arlington Heights, Ill.:
Harlan Davidson, 1987), 2-4; John Harelson Hosmer, "William A. Dunning: 'The Greatest
Historian,"' Mid-America: An Historical Review, LXVIII (Apr.-July, 1986), 57-78; Phihp
Muller, "Look Back without Anger: A Reappraisal of William A. Dunning," Journal of American

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/. Accessed July 23, 2014.