The American Presidents Series: The 17th President, 1865-1869
Publication Date: January 18, 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Compact Disc
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A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian recounts the tale of the unwanted president who ran afoul of Congress over Reconstruction and was nearly removed from office
Andrew Johnson never expected to be president. But just six weeks after becoming Abraham Lincoln's vice president, the events at Ford's Theatre thrust him into the nation's highest office.
Johnson faced a nearly impossible task—to succeed America's greatest chief executive, to bind the nation's wounds after the Civil War, and to work with a Congress controlled by the so-called Radical Republicans. Annette Gordon-Reed, one of America's leading historians of slavery, shows how ill-suited Johnson was for this daunting task. His vision of reconciliation abandoned the millions of former slaves (for whom he felt undisguised contempt) and antagonized congressional leaders, who tried to limit his powers and eventually impeached him.
The climax of Johnson's presidency was his trial in the Senate and his acquittal by a single vote, which Gordon-Reed recounts with drama and palpable tension. Despite his victory, Johnson's term in office was a crucial missed opportunity; he failed the country at a pivotal moment, leaving America with problems that we are still trying to solve.
Annette Gordon-Reed is the author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in History and the National Book Award. She holds three appointments at Harvard University: professor of law at Harvard Law School, professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. A MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, she is also the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy; the coauthor with Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., of Vernon Can Read!; and the editor of Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History. She lives in New York City.
"In this short and brilliantly written book, award-winning author Gordon-Reed … argues that the nation went from the best President to the worst during this most crucial period of its history."—Library Journal
"In a short biography, all bases can be covered, but the author is still left to exercise the tone of a personal essay, which this author accomplishes brilliantly."--Booklist (starred review)
"A fair-minded, toned-down portrait of a deeply problematic president who could not rise to the country’s challenge after the Civil War."--Kirkus Reviews