Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/09/2014
Year Published: 2014
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20815
A book review of Levine's "The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South," and Oakes's "Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865."
Levine's The Fall of the House of Dixie -- his fourth book on the Civil War period -- masterfully draws out the contours and hidden fissures of the "solid South" which erupt through the course of war into food riots, armed resistance to Confederate rule, slave rebellion and even outspoken opposition of slaveholders to their own Confederate government (themes also touched on in Freedom National.)
Like Edgar Allen Poe's "House of Usher," these fissures ultimately bring down the imposing House of Dixie. This metaphor serves as a wonderful narrative device but it is historically limited, since -- for reasons we will discuss -- the South lost the war but the House of Dixie certainly lived on.
While The Fall is a wide-ranging social history of the Civil War, Oakes' Freedom National is more tightly focused on emancipation and the Republican Party.
Oakes is an influential historian of the South whose previous works include two major books on slavery and slaveholders, a study of the interrelationship between Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln; his last was The Scorpion's Sting: Anti-Slavery and the Coming of the Civil War.
Freedom is a highly informative and at times engrossing read that recounts the course of Republican policies towards slavery and emancipation. Most notably, Oakes provides a deeper understanding of the legal and political strategies developed by abolitionists and how they unfolded over the course of the Civil War. This is not a study of the abolitionist movement as a whole and the role of Black abolitionists in this book is unfortunately limited to wartime events.