You are here

The Risen Phoenix

Black Politics in the Post–Civil War South
Luis-Alejandro Dinnella-Borrego

BUY Cloth · 304 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813938745 · $49.50 · Jul 2016
BUY Ebook · 304 pp. · ISBN 9780813938738 · $49.50 · Jul 2016

The Risen Phoenix charts the changing landscape of black politics and political culture in the postwar South by focusing on the careers of six black congressmen who served between the Civil War and the turn of the nineteenth century: John Mercer Langston of Virginia, James Thomas Rapier of Alabama, Robert Smalls of South Carolina, John Roy Lynch of Mississippi, Josiah Thomas Walls of Florida, and George Henry White of North Carolina. Drawing on a rich combination of traditional political history, gender and black history, and the history of U.S. foreign relations, the book argues that African American congressmen effectively served their constituents’ interests while also navigating their way through a tumultuous post–Civil War Southern political environment.

Black congressmen represented their constituents by advancing a policy agenda encompassing strong civil rights protections, economic modernization, and expanded access to education. Local developments such as antiblack aggression and violent electoral contests shaped the policies supported by newly elected black congressmen, including the tactical decision to support amnesty for ex-Confederates. Yet black congressmen ultimately embraced their role as national leaders and as spokesmen not only for their congressional districts and states but for all African Americans throughout the South. As these black leaders searched for effective ways to respond to white supremacy, disenfranchisement, segregation, and lynching, they challenged the barriers of prejudice, paving the way for future black struggles for equality in the twentieth century.


Eminently readable and comprehensively researched, Dinnella-Borrego’s examination of six black congressmen offers fascinating connections with earlier understandings of black politics during the Reconstruction era. As The Risen Phoenix brilliantly demonstrates, African Americans transformed antebellum freedom struggles into crusades for civil, political, and educational equality. A superb, important book.

Douglas Egerton, Le Moyne College, author of The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era

The Risen Phoenix offers important insights into both the lived experience of black politics following the Civil War and the electoral dynamics shaping African American life throughout the South. Dinnella-Borrego has done a terrific job examining the contours of black electoral life between the 1860s and early 1900s. This important study is a welcome addition to a burgeoning historiography on racial politics in the postbellum era.

Richard S. Newman, Library Company of Philadelphia, author of Freedom's Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers

As we approach the 150th anniversary of Reconstruction, Risen Phoenix is a timely new exploration of the careers of six black congressmen from that era.... [A] substantial contribution to the scholarship.

Civil War Book Review

Readers of The Risen Phoenix will enjoy graceful prose and compelling narrative; moreover, they will witness the craft of the historian at its finest. Dinnella-Borrego acknowledges the dense historiography of his subject while maintaining a brisk, chronological narrative. He deftly uses newspaper accounts, Congressional and court records, manuscripts and correspondence to bolster his claims and bring the reader into the tumultuous political world of the post-Civil War South.

Journal of the Shenandoah Valley During the Civil War Era,

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books