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Congress and the First Civil Rights Era, 1861–1918, Jeffery A. Jenkins and Justin Peck

Reviewed by David Bateman

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In January 1891, almost a year after the federal elections bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, it was defeated in the Senate. What followed was the near-total disenfranchisement of southern Black voters and the consolidation of the provincial state and cliquish localities as the institutional sites in which most electoral rules—from registration to counting ballots—would be set. We are still grappling with the consequences.

The fate of the elections bill underscores the centrality of Congress to the advance of and retreat from democracy in the United States. A fuller understanding of the processes through which a white supremacist political order was built, partially dismantled, and then built and partially dismantled again, requires an analysis that is attentive to the logic and dynamics of the institution.

Jeffrey A. Jenkins and Justin Peck's Congress and the First Civil Rights Era provides that through a comprehensive survey of congressional consideration of civil rights from 1861 to 1918. The substance of “civil rights” shifts as the chapters advance chronologically. Slavery and emancipation loom large during the Civil War (Chapter 2). The Freedmen's Bureau, the Ku Klux Klan, and political and civil rights become the focus of the Reconstruction years (Chapters 3 and 4). The latter per

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