©2019 by Frank J Wetta.

 

   During the Civil War and Reconstruction, the pejorative term "scalawag" referred to white southerners loyal to the Republican Party. With the onset of the federal occupation of New Orleans in 1862, scalawags challenged the restoration of the antebellum political and social orders. Derided as opportunists, uneducated "poor white trash," Union sympathizers, and race traitors, scalawags remain largely misunderstood even today. In The Louisiana Scalawags, Frank J. Wetta offers the first in-depth analysis of these men and their struggle over the future of Louisiana. A significant assessment of the interplay of politics, race, and terrorism during Reconstruction, this study answers an array of questions about the origin and demise of the scalawags, and debunks much of the negative mythology surrounding them.
Contrary to popular thought, the southern white Republicans counted among their ranks men of genuine accomplishment and talent. They worked in fields as varied as law, business, medicine, journalism, and planting, and many held government positions as city officials, judges, parish officeholders, and state legislators in the antebellum years. Wetta demonstrates that a strong sense of nationalism often motivated the men, no matter their origins.

   Louisiana's scalawags grew most active and influential during the early stages of Reconstruction, when they led in founding the state's Republican Party. The vast majority of white Louisianans, however, rejected the scalawags' appeal to form an alliance with the freedmen in a biracial political party. Eventually, the influence of the scalawags succumbed to persistent terrorism, corruption, and competition from the white carpetbaggers and their black Republican allies. By then, the state's Republican Party consisted of white political leaders without any significant white constituency. According to Wetta, these weaknesses, as well as ineffective federal intervention in response to a Democratic Party insurgency, caused the Republican Party to collapse and Reconstruction to fail in Louisiana.

   A century and a half after the Civil War, Americans are still dealing with the legacies of the conflict and Reconstruction, including the many myths and legends spawned by these events. The Long Reconstruction: The Post-Civil War South in History, Film, and Memory brings together history and popular culture to explore how the events of this era have been remembered.  Looking at popular cinema across the last hundred years, The Long Reconstruction uncovers central themes in the history of Reconstruction, including violence and terrorism; the experiences of African Americans and those of women and children; the Lost Cause ideology; and the economic reconstruction of the American South.

   Analyzing influential films such as The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind, as well as more recent efforts such as Cold Mountain and Lincoln, the authors show how the myths surrounding Reconstruction have impacted American culture.  This engaging book is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Reconstruction, historical memory, and popular culture.

Last Stands from the Alamo to Benghazi examines how filmmakers teach Americans about the country’s military past. Examining twenty-three representative war films and locating them in their cultural and military landscape, the authors argue that Hollywood’s view of American military history has evolved in two phases. The first phase, extending from the very beginnings of filmmaking to the Korean War, projected an essential patriotic triumphalism. The second phase, from the Korean and Vietnam Wars to the present, reflects a retreat from consensus and reflexive patriotism. In describing these phases, the authors address recurring themes such as the experience of war and combat, the image of the American war hero, race, gender, national myths, and more. With helpful film commentaries that extend the discussion through popular movie narratives, this book is essential for anyone interested in American military and film history.

 

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