Most persons raised in a segregated society are bound to a different perspective on racism. In this case, it is uniquely southern. According to the author, racism is both an idea and a set of beliefs about the world. The book focuses on Johnson s racial attitudes and how these intrinsic forces affected a whole society. The author chose Johnson, because unlike the other aristocrats of that time Johnson was a plebeian blue collar worker and historically, members of the working class tend to follow southern sentiments.
Racism can be defined in different ways by different authors. Racism was considerable different than it is today, but the similarity of the two would justify terming both, racism. In the nineteenth century, southerners were very race-conscious people. They built a society based on a kind of racism that made racial purity one of the main points to their society. They justified their beliefs religiously, scientifically or any way else it seemed fit to them.
Johnson projected hatred for both the Negro and his master. Johnson felt that the black was a constant reminder of a poor mans lack of status, where he spent his youth. Johnson s fundamental ideas of slavery were that it was not only moral, but it was necessary. Andrew Johnson as president took an approach to the freedmen that were interpreted by the contemporaries as essentially hostile to the integration of blacks into American Society. Johnson s obvious racist attitude often reflected the prevailing notions about Negro inferiority.
Andrew Johnson rose up from poverty through ambition, and a striving for success. His efforts to better himself both financially and socially were successful since he achieved the office of the presidency. Although Johnson was doing so well socially, economically, and politically, there were few indications that he was happy. He made no effort to hide resentment and bitterness toward anyone who disagreed with him and always answered vicious attacks in kind. Society was not prepared to accept Johnson, the tailor, as a social equal, and he would never forget this indignation. In later years when he was a success, he never let others forget it. Johnson was always sensitive to any act that could be even remotely imagined a slur. No matter how far he advanced in his political career he was always reminded of his social class, but to the working class he was there representative. Johnson was a self made man who understood the common man. His Characteristics came from the schooling associated with being lower class society.
This book gives a great perception of Southern racial attitudes before and after the civil war. How Johnson s racism, reflecting southern attitudes led to the demise of Reconstruction. This book offers much debate on both racism and reconstruction and would be worthwhile reading for and one interested in post civil war history.
Andrew Johnson and the Negro
By: David Warren Bowen
The University of Tennessee Press, 1989