... engrossing ... presents the battle over Reconstruction primarily from the perspectives of Johnson and Douglass, in the process illuminating what was at stake in the febrile political climate of the postwar period ... While the author expertly depicts Douglass—he has written about the great orator before—his portrait of Andrew Johnson stands out. In this book, Johnson is a vexing, divided and, for these reasons, ultimately intriguing person ... Mr. Levine is careful not to place the blame for the botched Reconstruction entirely at the 17th president’s feet ... Mr. Levine poignantly captures a moment when the future of the United States was up for grabs, when it was possible to imagine the full political participation of blacks and whites across the nation. In so doing, the author suggests the tragic consequences of failure and the way in which those consequences are still very much with us.
... engaging ... Recommended for readers who enjoy 19th-century history or presidential studies, and those seeking to understand the failures of Reconstruction. This thorough account adds a much-needed perspective on Reconstruction and Johnson’s presidency; it speaks to the ongoing battles over voting rights and racism.