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The Facts of Reconstruction

John R. Lynch

Book Overview: 

After the American Civil War, John R. Lynch, who had been a slave in Mississippi, began his political career in 1869 by first becoming Justice of the Peace, and then Mississippi State Representative. He was only 26 when he was elected to the US Congress in 1873. There, he continued to be an activist, introducing many bills and arguing on their behalf. Perhaps his greatest effort was in the long debate supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to ban discrimination in public accommodations.

In 1884 Lynch was the first African American nominated after a moving speech by Theodore Roosevelt to the position of Temporary Chairman of the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. During the Spanish-American War of 1898, he was appointed Treasury Auditor and then Paymaster under the Republicans. In 1901, he began serving with the Regular Army with tours of duty in the United States, Cuba, and the Philippines.

Lynch retired from the Army in 1911, then married Cora Williams. They moved to Chicago, where he practiced law. He also became involved in real estate. After his death in Chicago 1939 at the age of 92, he was buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. He was entitled to this as a Congressman and veteran.

After the turn of the century, Lynch wrote a book, The Facts of Reconstruction, and several articles criticizing the then-dominant Dunning School historiography. Dunning and followers had emphasized the views of former slave owners and routinely downplayed any positive contributions of African Americans during Reconstruction, as well as suggesting they could not manage any political power. Lynch argued that blacks had made substantial contributions during the period. Since he participated directly in Reconstruction-era governments, Lynch's book is considered a primary source in study of the period.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .The apportionment of Representatives in Congress, under the Apportionment Act which had recently passed Congress, increased the number of Representatives from Mississippi, which had formerly been five, to six. Republican leaders in both branches of the Legislature decided that the duty of drawing up a bill apportioning the State into Congressional Districts should devolve upon the Speaker of the House, with the understanding that the party organization would support the bill drawn by him.

I accepted the responsibility, and immediately proceeded with the work of drafting a bill for that purpose. Two plans had been discussed, each of which had strong supporters and advocates. One plan was so to apportion the State as to make all of the districts Republican; but in doing so the majority in at least two of the districts would be quite small. The other was so to apportion the State as to make five districts safely and reliably Republican and the remaining one Democrat. . . Read More

Community Reviews

First person account told in straight forward language from a man who lived this on the front lines, having served as a black Congressman from Mississippi during Reconstruction and as a delegate to Republican National Conventions. I came across this book from a footnote in Eric Foner’s Reconstructio

An essential primary source regarding national party politics during the Reconstruction Era. Lynch’s style is ornate without being beautiful, and his references to mostly-forgotten persons make the book read like a court document. He makes a few important general assertions about racial dynamics in

Interesting but a chore to get through.