In this age of affirmative action and increasing complexity in black-white relations, this pioneering study of Hampton, Virginia, tells the story of what race relations in postbellum America “might have been.” Here, if only for a time, the promises of Emancipation and Reconstruction were fulfilled. Why was the American Dream realized by blacks in Hampton and not elsewhere? Engs follows a community of freedmen over a thirty-year period to answer this compelling question.
"Engs deserves credit for the sophistication and scope of his study and for his attention to the subtle and paradoxical. The questions addressed, the logical scope of the book, the depth of research, and the author's crisp writing style contribute to making this book a major addition to the literature."-Journal of American History