The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998 Page: 126
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the North or the South, shared similar economic motivations and interests.
While SenGupta could have strengthened her argument by more closely linking
the economic hardships of life in territorial Kansas with the growing tendency
for economic cooperation to prevail over sectional conflict, her conclusion, as it
stands, is compelling. Economic issues like land distribution, the construction of
railroads, and the economic development of towns provided potent common
interests for those who had months before fought over slavery. This occurred in
Kansas in the late 185os and it anticipated what would occur in the South follow-
Texas Southern University CARY D. WINTZ
From Slavery to Uncertain Freedom: The Freedmen's Bureau in Arkansas, 1865-1869.
By Randy Finley. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1996. Pp.
xvii+229. Acknowledgments, tables, maps, preface, notes, bibliography,
index. ISBN 1-55728-423-7. $28.oo, cloth.)
Randy Finley eschews a more traditional institutional approach to studying the
Freedmen's Bureau and its role in reconstructing Arkansas. Rather, he uses the
bureau's experiences and its records to explore how the three key players in the
postwar era-the bureau men, freedpeople, and white Arkansans-interacted as
they made sense of the unique situations in which they found themselves. This
approach allows him to conclude that, despite white opposition and with the
assistance of the Freedmen's Bureau, ex-slaves strove heroically, if not always suc-
cessfully, to shape their new identity as a free people.
Finley is at his best when describing the postwar lives of black Arkansans.
Their efforts to protect themselves against white violence by organizing militia
units to patrol their neighborhoods is only the most dramatic example of the
freedpeople's desire to control their destiny and shape their new status. Their
attempts to substitute their work patterns for those of their ex-masters or their
new Yankee advisers, their consumption of consumer goods once denied to
them as slaves, and their efforts to develop educational opportunities for them-
selves and their children are equally significant.
The author is less successful in describing the motivation behind the
Freedmen's Bureau's work. His generally favorable view of the bureau is based
on an understanding of the honest efforts of many of the Arkansas agents and
officers, the limits built into the agency by Congress and Yankee ideology, and
the escalating violent opposition from white Arkansans that the bureau faced.
Still, Finley does not provide a satisfactory explanation as to why an agency that
he initially describes as being paternalistic at its best and racist at its worst
would do so much to stop white Arkansans from having their way with their ex-
slaves. The desire to maintain order and "bourgeois values" do not fully explain
why many of the of the Yankee bureau men would risk their lives for the freed-
people in their charge. Also, one does not have a sense of the bureau men as
people; too often they are reduced to reporters, not actors, in the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998, periodical, 1998; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/m1/155/?rotate=270: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.