William Archibald Dunning


William Archibald Dunning

William Archibald Dunning (1857-1922) was an American historian who founded the Dunning School of Reconstruction historiography at Columbia University, where he had graduated in 1881. Between 1886 and 1903 he taught history at Columbia, and was named a professor in 1904.New International Encyclopedia Born in Plainfield, N. J., Dunning was among the founders of the American Historical Association and AHA president in 1913.

Historical influence

The interpretation of post-Civil War Reconstruction in the United States that Dunning and his students propounded was the dominant theory taught in American schools for the first half of the 20th century. The viewpoint of Dunning and his followers was warmly sympathetic to former slave owners who had led some southern states to secede from the United States.

Dunning and his followers also condemned white Southerners who did not stand with the Confederacy during the Civil War and who joined the Republican Party after the war. Former Confederate leaders referred to the largest group of white Southern Republicans who did not identify with the goals of former plantation owners as Scalawags. They also referred to Northern whites who moved to the southern part of the United States after the war as Carpetbaggers. Both were derisive terms that Dunning and his followers popularized.

:Reconstruction's mythic cast of characters includes the "carpetbaggers", whom southern whites portrayed as greedy interlopers exploiting the South; the "scalawags", who were traitorous southern whites collaborating with the Yankees; the freedmen, who were sometimes seen as violent and depraved in the myth but mostly seemed ignorant and lost; and the former Confederates, who were the heroes of the story, all honorable, decent people with the South's best interests in mind. [McCrary, Peyton, "The Reconstruction Myth" in "Encyclopedia of Southern Culture"]

Our contemporary understanding of the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson traces back to the early twentieth century, when Columbia University's William Dunning lent academic respectability to a popular version of Reconstruction history pioneered by segregationist Southern Democrats and slavery apologists. Dunning wrote from the point of view of the defeated South and painted the Radical Republicans as villains. His interpretation served the ideological purposes of a majority-white country eager to put the divisions of the nineteenth century behind it, and it thus came to saturate public memory until the very dawn of the civil rights era. Indeed, its indirect influence is visible even in John F. Kennedy's book "Profiles in Courage", which admired... Edmund G. Ross, the Kansas Republican senator who cast the vote that acquitted Johnson. [Joshua Zeitz "The New Republic, 18 January 1999, pp. 13-15]

Books by Dunning

* "History of Political Theories, Ancient and Mediœval" (3 vol., 1902–20)
* "Reconstruction—Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction" (1898, rev. ed. 1904)
* "History of Political Theories from Luther to Montesquieu" (1905)
* "Reconstruction, Political and Economic, 1865–1877" (1907)
* "Carl Schurz's Political Career, 1869-1906", with Frederic Bancroft (1908)
* "Paying for Alaska" (1912)
* "The British Empire and the United States (1914)"
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References

* Beale, Howard K."American Historical Review." "On Rewriting Reconstruction History," 807–27.

* Foner, Foner|Eric Foner. "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877." 1988.

* Lewis, David Levering|David Levering Lewis [http://silverdialogues.fas.nyu.edu/docs/CP/301/leveringlewis.pdf]

* Franklin, John Hope|John Hope Franklin. "Mirror for Americans: A Century of Reconstruction History" presidential address, American Historical Association. 1979. [http://www.historians.org/info/AHA_History/jhfranklin.htm]

* McCrary, Peyton. "The Reconstruction Myth" in "Encyclopedia of Southern Culture" (University of North Carolina Press: 1989) McCrary, a historian with the United States Department of Justice taught at the University of Minnesota, Vanderbilt, and the University of South Alabama for 20 years.

* Zeitz, Joshua. "The New Republic," 18 January 1999, pp. 13-15.


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