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A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to TheGreat Migration
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A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to TheGreat Migration

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  545 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
This is the epic story of how African-Americans, in the six decades following slavery, transformed themselves into a political people--an embryonic black nation. As Steven Hahn demonstrates, rural African-Americans were central political actors in the great events of disunion, emancipation, and nation-building. At the same time, Hahn asks us to think in more expansive ways ...more
Hardcover, 609 pages
Published November 10th 2003 by Belknap Press (first published April 30th 2003)
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Joseph Stieb
Steven Hahn’s A Nation Under our Feet presents the history of black political struggles in the rural South from the last decades of slavery to the Great Migration. He reimagines African-American political history by expanding the definition of politics and focusing on black attempts to assert control over their own lives, shape and protect their communities, and gain political power. He succeeds less in dramatically reframing Southern political history from the Civil War to the turn of the centu ...more
Hannah Lawrence
Jan 13, 2008 Hannah Lawrence is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
2004 Pulitzer Prize winner in History, This book is a very well written history of African American political struggles from the Civil war through reconstruction. I am enjoying this book a lot, and learning so much about a period in history I know so little about.
Robin Friedman
Jan 05, 2017 Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How Southern Blacks Empowered Themselves

Steven Hahn's history "A Nation Under Our Feet" (2004) tells an inspiring and broad story: how rural Southern African Americans took steps towards political empowerment as a group beginning with the period of slavery and continuing through the Great Migration to the Northern states beginning early in the Twentieth Century. Hahn is a Professor of American History at the University of Pennsylvania, and his book received, and justly so, the Pulitzer Prize, th
...more
David Bates
May 23, 2013 David Bates rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Hahn published A Nation Under Our Feet in 2003 to dispute treatments of Reconstruction which emphasized government decision making and Northern public opinion. Writing that “most of the relevant scholarship has been governed by something of a liberal integrationist framework,” Hahn criticized “a framework of analysis . . . that measures politicization chiefly by what came to freedpeople from the outside, and that privileges and lends legitimacy to certain sets of aspirations (inclusion a ...more
Dan Gorman
Mar 02, 2015 Dan Gorman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This powerful work of narrative history examines the political networks of black Americans before, during, and after the Civil War. Steven Hahn argues that slave political networks translated well, and easily, to post-Civil War politics, helping black Americans to organize along community, kin, and religious lines. Hahn covers a substantial amount of labor history, studying how black workers used strikes well past Reconstruction and into the Jim Crow era to obtain better treatment from white lan ...more
Ruth Ann
Aug 19, 2015 Ruth Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
Five stars for content and three stars for writing. The history covered here is extremely important and the author clearly did extensive research. I learned a great deal that I didn't know before. But, this book really suffers for lack of editing. There were hundreds of places where I had to re-read to find the verb, or to remind myself of the beginning of a sentence after a too-lengthy parenthetical statement.

That limits the book's audience to readers who are already committed to the topic, lea
...more
Mary Rose
Jan 27, 2016 Mary Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure, I didn't read every single source in here, but it was an absolutely useful book nonetheless. This should not be the first book you read about this topic, but if you've read a general history (or two) of slavery in the US, the Civil War, and reconstruction and want to read primary sources, this is the best book out there for it. It's absolutely great for reference, especially if the book or article you are reading skims over the voices of black people during this period.
Dennis Henn
I made it 27% of the way and then hoisted the white flag of surrender. One of the most tedious and repetitious non-fiction books I have yet read. The book won the Pulitzer so I am certain it is excellent. Hahn did an excellent job of research. Given the turmoil of the times and the epic-heroic battle fought by African Americans for political rights, how could this book so easily put me to sleep?
Sarah
Craploads of information, decently readable, would be excellent for research or background information on black politics in the rural south 1830-1900. That said, it's long and gets quite tedious, and it can be quite repetitive at times.

The research is brilliant and thorough, it's certainly an accomplished work, but reading it is not particularly enjoyable.
Femmy
Sep 18, 2015 Femmy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book, the notion of laid back African Americans who are perpetually waiting for others to help them becomes untenable. Even in slavery they were players albeit subtle ones and immediately the institution of slavery was abolished they become overtly involve in shaping their own destiny.
Larry Powell
Jan 15, 2014 Larry Powell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A magisterial history of African American politics during the revolutionary upheavals that redefined American citizenship. There's nothing quite like this book in the vast literature of slavery and freedom. The research is certainly brilliant, the writing superb. But the insights are what set it apart. "A Nation Under Our Feet" is a synthesis destined for a long shelf life.
Ashley
Dec 10, 2013 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for one of my college courses and it is a surprisingly good read! The author, Steven Hahn, paints a very vivid picture of what life was like for blacks following the Civil War. If you are a history buff then you will enjoy this book! American History is not my favorite thing, I'm a Russian History specialist, but I did enjoy this novel.
Margaret
May 01, 2016 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a little slow in the middle, but a very interesting history of how black folks worked the system as Ray they could under shitty circumstances. I personally had no idea how much they negotiated "privileges" from their owners pre-emancipation, or
how much political activity there was during repressive times after reconstruction ended. Very interesting, but it took a while to get through.
Jessica Injejikian
Groundbreaking when it was written, extensive evidence to support main arguments that black struggle from slavery to Great Migration aided in both the creation of new political nation and African American nation. Gain understanding of rural worker influence on American democracy instead of industrial.
Johorse
May 20, 2013 Johorse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
actually learned a lot in this one. it's all like kapow why dem blacks be up north? CAUSE THE SOUTH A SHIT HOLE, SON
Caitlin
Nov 30, 2010 Caitlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, our LAST book for American history seminar! I still can't believe I read 24 books in 15 weeks.
AskHistorians
Great study of Reconstruction from the perspective of former slaves and their descendants.
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Steven Hahn is the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor in American History at the University of Pennsylvania.
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