Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Amy Murrell Taylor


This dissertation is the first comprehensive study of “everyday” racial violence in the postbellum South. Taking as its focus the states of Louisiana and Kentucky, One Dead Freedman juxtaposes the practical enactment of black citizenship against daily racial terrorism by incorporating personal, familial, and community testimony left behind by African Americans who had a direct experience with such violence. Within this dissertation, the terminology of “everyday violence” is employed to differentiate the more mundane forms of white violence from the more spectacular forms of Reconstruction-era violence such as lynching, the Ku Klux Klan, and race riots. Thus, the definition of everyday violence includes anything from verbal threats all the way to the brutal beatings, whippings, and murders that were so commonplace as to not draw attention from the local and national media.

One Dead Freedman is organized both thematically and chronologically, and it examines everyday racial violence in five distinct “spaces”: military enlistment; the workplace; the household; schools; and voting stations. This dissertation pays close attention to what each of these spaces meant to black Southerners during the first years of emancipation, and, then, digs into what forms, or types, of violence were utilized by white Southerners in each. One Dead Freedman concludes that white Southerners used racial violence in an effort to circumscribe the practical enactment of black citizenship on a daily basis during Reconstruction. This violence was, ironically, both pervasive and diffuse, and served to undercut the position of African Americans in the South, and America at large, far beyond 1877 by limiting black mobility and autonomy in both private and public spaces in which African Americans defined the meaning of their own freedom. The persistence of this violence, and its legacy, was central to the enduring power of racism in America through the Civil Rights Movement and even into modern America.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)