Winner of the Gulf South Historical Association's Michael Thomas Book Award.
Examines the life stories and perspectives about freedom in relation to the figures depicted in an infamous Reconstruction-era political cartoon
The cartoon first appeared in the Tuskaloosa Independent Monitor, published by local Ku Klux Klan boss Ryland Randolph, as a swaggering threat aimed at three individuals. Hanged from an oak branch clutching a carpetbag marked “OHIO” is the Reverend Arad S. Lakin, the Northern-born incoming president of the University of Alabama. Swinging from another noose is Dr. Noah B. Cloud—agricultural reformer, superintendent of education, and deemed by Randolph a “scalawag” for joining Alabama’s reformed state government. The accompanying caption, penned in purple prose, similarly threatens Shandy Jones, a politically active local man of color.
Using a dynamic and unprecedented approach that interprets the same events through four points of view, Hubbs artfully unpacks numerous layers of meaning behind this brutal two-dimensional image.
The four men associated with the cartoon—Randolph, Lakin, Cloud, and Jones—were archetypes of those who were seeking to rebuild a South shattered by war. Hubbs explores these broad archetypes but also delves deeply into the four men’s life stories, writings, speeches, and decisions in order to recreate each one’s complex worldview and quest to live freely. Their lives, but especially their four very different understandings of freedom, help to explain many of the conflicts of the 1860s. The result is an intellectual tour de force.
General readers of this highly accessible volume will discover fascinating new insights about life during and after America’s greatest crisis, as will scholars of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and southern history.
List of Illustrations
Appendix A: Characters
Appendix B: Chronology
Appendix C: Caption to A Prospective Scene in the “City of Oaks,” 4th of March, 1869
G. Ward Hubbs is a professor emeritus, reference librarian, and archivist at Birmingham-Southern College; the editor of Rowdy Tales from Early Alabama: The Humor of John Gorman Barr; and the author of Guarding Greensboro: A Confederate Company in the Making of a Southern Community.
"Searching for Freedom is well-written and thoroughly researched. Its ambitious dissection of the manifold concept of freedom is illuminating and rewarding." —The Alabama Review
"Hubbs’s volume is informative. The preface, introduction, and four chapters illustrate many issues related to Alabama’s first Reconstruction. The epilogue makes it plain that some issues, most notably race and ethnicity, spanned the state’s Second Reconstruction (the modern civil rights movement) and continue to divide its citizenry during Third Reconstruction. Put another way, certain people in Alabama are still searching for freedom 150 years after the Civil War. Whether they will find it remains the state’s greatest challenge." —The Journal of Southern History
“Hubbs deftly demonstrates that a crude woodcut image from a nearly forgotten local newspaper can lead us, if we will examine it closely, toward a fuller understanding of individuals, their antecedents, and their interconnected times during this fascinating and pivotal era in American history.” —Paul M. Pruitt Jr., author of Taming Alabama: Lawyers and Reformers, 1804–1929
“In a marvelously original approach for studying Reconstruction, Guy Hubbs takes an iconic political cartoon and uncovers the fascinating story behind it. But more than that, he uses four strikingly different characters to offer a deeply thoughtful meditation on the multiple meanings of freedom during one of the most tortuous and difficult periods of American history. This book dissects the fundamental values of another era, but the beliefs espoused by Arad Lakin, Noah B. Cloud, Ryland Randolph, and Shandy Jones resonate into our own time.” —George C. Rable, author of God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War