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New book: A Tour of Reconstruction: Travel Letters of 1875, by Anna Dickinson, edited by J. Matthew Gallman ’79 (University Press of Kentucky)

The author: A professor of history at the University of Florida, Gallman teaches courses on the Civil War, American women’s history, and 19th century America. He has written four books, including Mastering Wartime: A Social History of Philadelphia During the Civil War (1990), and the biography America’s Joan of Arc: The Life of Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (2006).
The book: Anna Dickinson, a fiery and charismatic orator and celebrity by her early 20s, gave lectures on abolitionism, women’s rights, politics, and public affairs. In March 1875 — soon after President Grant had signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 — she headed to postwar South to see how the region was progressing and examine the social shifts afoot due to Reconstruction. In A Tour of Reconstruction, a collection of her observations and letters, she documents race relations and the state of the economy. She talked to blacks and whites and visited schools, penitentiaries, factories, and black churches. Among the interesting people she describes is a Richmond woman who acted as a Union spy during the Civil War.

Opening lines: “In late March 1875, popular orator Anna Dickinson set off from Washington, D.C., for an extended tour of the Reconstruction South. Dickinson was a professional public speaker who had arranged her itinerary in search of paying audiences, but she was also anxious to see what the South looked like a decade after Appomattox. Fortunately for us, she took copious notes and sent long letters home describing what she saw. Few moments in American history would be more interesting to visit than the South in 1875. And few observers could match Anna Dickinson’s critical eye and caustic wit. The result is a marvelous portrait of a Southern world in flux and a strong-willed Northern woman clinging to her own fame.”