"Civil War by Other Means: America's Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy"

Event Details

End: February 23, 2023
Contact: rwheatley@historians.org

This event is part of the Washington History Seminar series. It is sponsored by the AHA and features author Jeremi Suri and commentators Chandra Manning and Michael Fitzgerald. Register here. 


In 1865, the Confederacy was comprehensively defeated, its economy shattered, its leaders in exile or in jail. Yet in the years that followed, Lincoln’s vision of a genuinely united country never took root. Apart from a few brief months, when the presence of the Union army in the South proved liberating for newly freed Black Americans, the military victory was squandered. Old white supremacist efforts returned, more ferocious than before. In Civil War by Other Means, Jeremi Suri shows how resistance to a more equal Union began immediately. From the first postwar riots to the return of Confederate exiles, to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, to the highly contested and consequential election of 1876, Suri explores the conflicts and questions Americans wrestled with as competing visions of democracy, race, and freedom came to a vicious breaking point. What emerges is a vivid and at times unsettling portrait of a country striving to rebuild itself, but unable to compromise on or adhere to the most basic democratic tenets. What should have been a moment of national renewal was ultimately wasted, with reverberations still felt today. The recent shocks to American democracy are rooted in this forgotten, urgent history.

Jeremi Suri holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a professor in the University's Department of History and the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Professor Suri is the author and editor of eleven books on politics and foreign policy, most recently: Civil War By Other Means: America’s Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy. His other books include: The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office; Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama; Henry Kissinger and the American Century; and Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente. His writings appear in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN.com, Atlantic, Newsweek, Time, Wired, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and other media. Professor Suri is a popular public lecturer and comments frequently on radio and television news. His writing and teaching have received numerous prizes, including the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Texas and the Pro Bene Meritis Award for Contributions to the Liberal Arts. Professor Suri hosts a weekly podcast, “This is Democracy.” His professional website is: http://jeremisuri.net

Chandra Manning is a professor at Georgetown University and teaches U.S. history, chiefly of the 19th century, including classes on the Civil War, slavery and emancipation, Lincoln, citizenship, the American Revolution, and the History of Baseball (not necessarily in that order). She began teaching at Georgetown in 2005, took leave to serve as Special Advisor to the Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University from 2015-2017, and returned to Georgetown full time in the fall of 2017. Her first book, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War (Knopf, 2007) won the Avery O. Craven Prize awarded by the Organization of American Historians, earned Honorable Mention for the Lincoln Prize and the Virginia Literary Awards for Nonfiction, and was a finalist for the Jefferson Davis Prize and the Frederick Douglass Prize. Her second book, Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War (Knopf, 2016), about Civil War refugee camps where former slaves allied with the Union Army and altered the course of the war and of emancipation, won the Jefferson Davis Prize awarded by the American Civil War Museum for best book on the Civil War. A former National Park Service Ranger, she has also advised historical sites, museums, and historical societies, as well as community groups in search of historical perspective. 

Michael W. Fitzgerald is a professor of history at St. Olaf College. Professor Fitzgerald specializes in southern history. He teaches in African American history, the Civil War era, and topical seminars on slavery, civil rights, and related topics. He is the author of several books, including: The Union League and Social Change in the Deep South During Reconstruction (LSU, 1989); Urban Emancipation: Popular Politics in Reconstruction Mobile (LSU Press, 2002); and Reconstruction in Alabama: From Civil War to Redemption in the Cotton South (Louisiana State University Press, 2017). His current project is a Ku Klux Klan-connected family in Alabama during Reconstruction. Various articles of his dealing with aspects of Reconstruction have appeared in the Journal of American History, Journal of Southern History, and Civil War History.