ABOUT THIS BOOK
Twenty-three autobiographical articles by noted African American journalist T. Thomas Fortune, comprising a late-life memoir of his childhood in Reconstruction-era Florida
T. Thomas Fortune was a leading African American publisher, editor, and journalist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who was born a slave in antebellum Florida, lived through emancipation, and rose to become a literary lion of his generation. In T. Thomas Fortune's “After War Times,” Daniel R. Weinfeld brings together a series of twenty-three autobiographical articles Fortune wrote about his formative childhood during Reconstruction and subsequent move to Washington, DC.
By 1890, Fortune had founded a predecessor organization to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, known as the National Afro-American League, but his voice found its most powerful expression and influence in poetry, prose, and journalism. It was as a journalist that Fortune stirred national controversy by issuing a passionate appeal to African American southerners: “I propose to start a crusade,” he proclaimed in June 1900, “to have the negroes of the South leave that section and to come north or go elsewhere. It is useless to remain in the South and cry Peace! Peace! When there is no peace.” The movement he helped propel became known as “the Great Migration.”
By focusing on Thomas’s ruminations about his disillusion with post–Civil War Florida, Weinfeld highlights the sources of Fortune’s deep disenchantment with the South, which intensified when the Reconstruction order gave way to Jim Crow–era racial discrimination and violence. Decades after he left the South, Fortune’s vivid memories of incidents and personalities in his past informed his political opinions and writings. Scholars and readers interested in Southern history in the aftermath of the Civil War, especially the experiences of African Americans, will find much of interest in this vital collection of primary writings.