In 1877, a decade after the Civil War, not only was the United States gripped by a deep depression
, but the country was also in the throes of nearly unimaginable violence and upheaval marking the end of the brief period known as Reconstruction and a return to white rule across the South. In the wake of the contested
presidential election of 1876
, white supremacist mobs swept across the South, killing and driving out the last of the Reconstruction state governments. A strike
involving millions of railroad workers turned violent as it spread from coast-to-coast, and for a moment seemed close to toppling the nation’s economic structure.
In 1877, celebrated historian Michael Bellesiles reveals that the fires of that fated year also fueled a hothouse of cultural and intellectual innovation. Bellesiles relates the story of 1877not just through dramatic events, but also through the lives of famous and little-known Americans.
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The election of 1876 was controversial and corrupt, ending in a commission that declared Rutheford B. Hayes to be elected President.