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Eric Foner Bio
Eric Foner is an American historian. He writes extensively on American political history, the history of freedom, the early history of the Republican Party, African American biography, Reconstruction, and historiography, and has been a member of the faculty at the Columbia University Department of History since 1982.
He is the author of several textbooks commonly used in college-level American history courses across the United States.
Eric Foner Age
Eric was born on February 7, 1943. He is currently 76 years old as per 2019.
Eric Foner Family
Foner was born in New York City, New York, the son of Jewish parents Liza, a high school art teacher, and historian Jack D. Foner, who was active in the trade union movement and the campaign for civil rights for African Americans. Eric Foner describes his father as his “first great teacher,” and recalls how,
‘deprived of his livelihood while I was growing up, he supported our family as a freelance lecturer. … Listening to his lectures, I came to appreciate how present concerns can be illuminated by the study of the past—how the repression of the McCarthy era recalled the days of the Alien and Sedition Acts, the civil rights movement needed to be viewed in light of the great struggles of Black and White abolitionists.
And in the brutal suppression of the Philippine insurrection at the turn of the century could be found the antecedents of American intervention in Vietnam.
I also imbibed a way of thinking about the past in which visionaries and underdogs—Tom Paine, Wendell Phillips, Eugene V. Debs, and W. E. B. Du Bois—were as central to the historical drama as presidents and captains of industry, and how a commitment to social justice could infuse one’s attitudes towards the past’.
Eric Foner Wife
Foner married screenwriter Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, in 1965 from whom he divorced in 1977. In 1982 Foner married Lynn Garafola, professor of dance at Barnard College and dance critic, historian, and curator. They have one daughter together.
Eric Foner Career
From 1973 to 1982, Foner served as a professor in the history department at City College and Graduate Center at City University of New York. In 1976 and 1977, he was a visiting professor of American History at Princeton University. In 1980, he was Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at the University of Cambridge.
Appointed the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University in 1988, a chair previously held by his mentor Richard Hofstadter, Foner specializes in the mid-19th century U.S. history.
He was elected president of the Organization of American Historians in (1993–94), and of the American Historical Association (2000). He is one of only two persons to serve as president of the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, and Society of American Historians.
Writing on the Reconstruction Era
Foner is a leading authority on the Reconstruction Era. In a seminal essay in American Heritage in October 1982, later reprinted in Reviews in American History, Foner wrote,
In the past twenty years, no period of American history has been the subject of a more thoroughgoing reevaluation than Reconstruction—the violent, dramatic, and still controversial era following the Civil War.
Race relations, politics, social life, and economic change during Reconstruction have all been reinterpreted in the light of changed attitudes toward the place of blacks within American society.
If historians have not yet forged a fully satisfying portrait of Reconstruction as a whole, the traditional interpretation that dominated historical writing for much of this century has irrevocably been laid to rest.
That year, he gave the Walter L. Fleming Lectures in southern history, which were later published as Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy.
In 1988, Foner published his definitive book Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877. It won the Bancroft Prize, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Avery O. Craven Prize, and the Lionel Trilling Prize.
“Foner has established himself as the leading authority on the Reconstruction period,” wrote historian Michael Perman in reviewing Reconstruction. “This book is not simply a distillation of the secondary literature; it is a masterly account – broad in scope as well as rich in detail and insight.
“This is history written on a grand scale, a masterful treatment of one of the most complex periods of American history,” David Herbert Donald wrote in The New Republic. C. Vann Woodward, in The New York Review of Books, wrote, “Eric Foner has put together this terrible story with greater cogency and power, I believe that has been brought to the subject heretofore.”
Foner has continued to lecture widely on Reconstruction and published several shorter versions of his major book, including A Short History of Reconstruction, 1863–1877 (1990) and America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War (1995).
In a 2009 essay, Foner pondered whether Reconstruction might have turned out differently.
“It is wrong to think that, during the Civil War, President Lincoln embraced a single ‘plan’ of Reconstruction,” he wrote. “Lincoln had always been willing to work closely with all factions of his party, including the Radicals on numerous occasions. I think it is quite plausible to imagine Lincoln and Congress agreeing to a Reconstruction policy encompassing basic civil rights for blacks plus limited black suffrage, along the lines he proposed just before his death.”
In a New York Times op-ed, he criticized President Trump’s tweet calling for the preservation of Confederate monuments and heritage, stating that they represented and glorified white supremacy rather than collective heritage.
Secession and the Soviet Union
As a visiting professor in Moscow in the early 1990s, Foner compared secessionist forces in the USSR with the secession movement in the U.S. in the 1860s. In a February 1991 article, Foner noted that the Baltic states claimed the right to secede because they had been unwillingly annexed.
In addition, he believed that the Soviet Union did not protect minorities while it tried to nationalize the republics. Foner identified a threat to existing minority groups within the Baltic states, who were in turn threatened by the new nationalist movements.
Exhibitions and testimony
With Olivia Mahoney, chief curator at the Chicago History Museum, Foner curated two prize-winning exhibitions on American history: A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln, which opened at the Chicago History Museum in 1990, and America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War, a traveling exhibit that opened at the Virginia Historical Society in 1995.
He revised the presentation of American history at the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland. He has served as a consultant to several National Park Service historical sites and historical museums.
Foner served as an expert witness for the University of Michigan’s defense of affirmative action in its undergraduate and law school admissions (Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger) considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.
Foner serves on the editorial boards of Past and Present and The Nation.
Foner has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, London Review of Books, and other publications. In addition, he has spoken about history on television and radio, including Charlie Rose, Book Notes, and All Things Considered.
He has appeared in historical documentaries on PBS and The History Channel. Foner contributed an essay and conversation with John Sayles in Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies, published by the Society of American Historians in 1995. He was the historian in Freedom: A History of the US on PBS in 2003.
Eric Foner Books
1. Give Me Liberty!: An American History
2. The Fiery Trial
3. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877
4. Gateway to Freedom
5. A short history of Reconstruction, 1863-1877
6. The story of American freedom
7. Voices of Freedom
8. Free soil, free labor, free men
9. Nothing but Freedom
10. Forever free
11. Who owns history?
12. The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution
13. Battles for Freedom: The Use and Abuse of American History
14. Tom Paine and Revolutionary America
15. A House Divided
16. Politics and ideology in the age of the Civil War
17. Freedom’s lawmakers
18. America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War
19. America’s black past
20. Give Me Liberty! and Voices of Freedom
21. Reconstruction Updated Edition: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-18
22. Give Me Liberty!: To 1877
23. Coming of the Civil War
24. Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction
25. Slavery’s Ghost: The Problem of Freedom in the Age of Emancipation
26. Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of America’s Fugitive Slaves
27. Give Me Liberty!, 2nd Edition
28. Give Me Liberty, Volume 1: To 1877: Am American History
29. The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s
30. At Freedom’s Door
31. Give Me Liberty V1 W/
32. Faith and Freedom: Religious Liberty in America
33. Give Me Liberty Cl W/Nahdr Pas
34. Give Me Liberty V2 W/Vfv2
35. Give Me Liberty V2 W/Nahdr Pas
36. Give Me Liberty!, Volume 1: An American History: To 1877
37. Variations on a theme of Haydn: for orchestra, op. 56A and for two pianos, op. 56B: the revised scores of the standard editions, the sketches, textual criticism and notes, historical background, analytical essays, views, and comments
38. Voices of Freedom V1 Pa W/V2 P
39. Give Me Liberty V2 W/Tnwwmtd+V
40. Thomas Paine — Collected Writings Common Sense; the Crisis; Rights of Man; the Age of Reason
41. Give Me Liberty! American History, 3rd Ed.
42. Romani Human Rights: Old Problems, New Possibilities: Hearing Before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe One Hundred Seventh Congress Second Session April
43. Give Me Liberty V1 W/Vfv1
44. The Green Revolution: The American Environmental Movement, 1962-1992
45. Give Me Liberty!: From 1865
46. Give Me Liberty Cl W/Vfv1+2+Na
Eric Foner Quotes
1. “Who owns history? Everyone and no one–which is why the study of the past is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery.”
2. “The problem is that we tend too often to read Lincoln’s growth backward, as an unproblematic trajectory toward a predetermined end. This enables scholars to ignore or downplay aspects of Lincoln’s beliefs with which they are uncomfortable.”
3. “It is a well-known fact that Abraham Lincoln spent much of his spare time visiting wounded soldiers in Union Army hospitals. I’ve spent thirty years teaching history at Columbia and I don’t think I’ve spent more than fifteen minutes in the freshman dorm. Are we the ones keeping Lincoln’s memory alive? Or are we burying it?”
4. “Frederick Douglass, who had encountered racism even within abolitionist ranks, considered Lincoln a fundamentally decent individual. “He treated me as a man,” Douglass remarked in 1864, “he did not let me feel for a moment that there was any difference in the color of our skins.”
5. “Lincoln, who enjoyed less than one year of formal schooling, was essentially self-educated. He read widely in nineteenth-century political economy, including the works of the British apostle of economic liberalism John Stuart Mill and the Americans Henry Carey and Francis Wayland.
Although these writers differed on specific policies—Carey was among the most prominent advocates of a high tariff while Wayland favored free trade—all extolled the virtues of entrepreneurship and technological improvement in a modernizing market economy.
(Wayland, the president of Brown University and a polymath who published works on ethics, religion, and philosophy, made no direct reference to slavery in his 400-page tome, Elements of Political Economy, but did insist that people did not work productively unless allowed to benefit from their own labor, an argument Lincoln would reiterate in the 1850s.)”
6. “Like his idol Henry Clay, Lincoln saw government as an active force promoting opportunity and advancement. Its “legitimate object,” he wrote in an undated memorandum, “is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do…for themselves.”
He offered as examples of building roads and public schools and providing relief to the poor. To Lincoln, Whig policies offered the surest means of creating economic opportunities for upwardly striving men like himself.13”
7. “By all accounts, the Northern men who leased plantations were “an unsavory lot,” attracted by the quick profits seemingly guaranteed in wartime cotton production. In the scramble among army officers illegally engaged in cotton deals and Northern investors seeking to “pluck the golden goose” of the South, the rights of blacks received scant regard.”
8. “Republicans, white and black, heaped scorn upon “respectable” who did not participate directly in the violence but “could not stop their sons from murdering their inoffensive neighbors in broad daylight.” Yet their complicity went beyond silence in the face of unspeakable crimes.
Through their constant vilification of blacks, carpetbaggers, scalawags, and Reconstruction, the “old political leaders” fostered a climate that condoned violence as a legitimate weapon in the struggle for Redemption.”
9. “By 1870, a large majority of blacks lived in two-parent family households, a fact that can be gleaned from the manuscript census returns but also “quite incidentally” from the Congressional Ku Klux Klan hearings, which recorded countless instances of victims assaulted in their homes, “the husband and wife in bed, and … their little children beside them.”
10. “Black troops helped construct schools, churches, and orphanages, organized debating societies, and held political gatherings where “freedom songs” were sung and soldiers delivered “speeches of the most inflammatory kind.”
11. “In a sense, slavery had imposed upon black men and women the rough “equality” of powerlessness. With freedom came developments that strengthened patriarchy within the black family and institutionalized the notion that men and women should inhabit separate spheres.”
12. “partial exception to this pattern was the Catholic Church, which generally did not require black worshippers to sit in separate pews (although its parochial schools were segregated). Some freedmen abandoned Catholicism for black-controlled Protestant denominations, but others were attracted to it precisely because, a Northern teacher reported from Natchez, “they are treated in terms of equality, at least while they are in church.”
And Catholicism retained its hold on large numbers of New Orleans free blacks who, at least on Sunday, coexisted harmoniously with the city’s French and Irish white Catholic population.”
13. “Nothing in all history,” exulted William Lloyd Garrison equaled “this wonderful, quiet, sudden transformation of four millions of human beings from … the auction-block to the ballot box.”
14. “For historians, hindsight can be a treacherous ally. Enabling us to trace the hidden patterns of past events, it beguiles us with the mirage of inevitability, the assumption that different outcomes lay beyond the limits of the possible.”
15. “Northern teacher in Florida reported how one sixty-year-old woman, “just beginning to spell, seems as if she could not think of anything but her book, says she spells her lesson all the evening, then she dreams about it, and wakes up thinking about it.”
16. “By the war’s end, some 180,000 blacks had served in the Union Army—over one-fifth of the nation’s adult male black population under age forty-five.”
17. “Alvan Stewart, a prolific writer, and speaker against slavery from New York developed the argument that the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which barred depriving any person of “life, liberty, or property” without due process of law, made slavery unconstitutional. Slaves, said Stewart, should go to court and obtain writs of habeas corpus ordering their release from bondage.”
18. “Belknap replied, “Slavery hath been abolished here by public opinion.” Understanding the importance of public sentiment, abolitionists pioneered the practice of radical agitation in a democracy. They did not put forward a detailed plan of emancipation.
Rather, their aim, explained Wendell Phillips, perhaps the movement’s greatest orator, was “to alter public opinion,” to bring about a moral transformation whereby white Americans recognized the humanity and equal rights of blacks. By changing public discourse, by redefining the politically “possible,” the abolitionist movement affected far more Americans than actually joined its ranks.42”
19. “Even after slavery ended in New York, the South’s peculiar institution remained central to the city’s economic prosperity. New York’s dominant Democratic party maintained close ties to the South, and some local officials were more than happy to cooperate in apprehending and returning fugitive slaves.
Abraham Lincoln carried New York State in the election of 1860 thanks to a resounding majority in rural areas, but he received only a little over one-third of the vote in New York City. More than once, proslavery mobs ran amok, targeting abolitionist homes and gatherings and the residences and organizations of free blacks.12”
20. “The minimum capital requirement of $50,000 and a proviso barring national banks from holding mortgages on land restricted these institutions to large cities. The system both promoted the consolidation of a national capital market essential to future investment in industry and commerce and placed its control firmly in the hands of Wall Street.”
21. “The war vindicated their conviction, itself a product of the slavery controversy, that freedom stood in greater danger of abridgment from local than national authority (a startling reversal of the founding fathers’ belief, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, that centralized power posed the major threat to individual liberties).”
22. “Confederacy. Mountainous Rabun County, Georgia, was “almost a unit against secession,” and secret Union societies flourished in the Ozark mountains of northern Arkansas, from which 8,000 men eventually joined the federal army.25 Discontent developed more slowly outside the mountains, with their cohesive communities of intense local loyalties, where slaves comprised only a tiny fraction of the population.
It was not simply devotion to the Union, but the impact of the war and the consequences of Confederate policies, that awakened peace sentiment and social conflict. In”
23. “Newspaper advertisements seeking the recapture of fugitives frequently described runaways as “cheerful” and “well-disposed,” as if their escapes were inexplicable. But these notices inadvertently offered a record of abusive treatment—mentions of scars and other injuries that would help identify the runaway—that provided powerfully”
24. “As Georges Clemenceau, reporting on Reconstruction for a French newspaper, observed after the war, “Any Democrat who did not manage to hint that the negro is a degenerate gorilla would be considered lacking in enthusiasm.”57”
25. “Ironically, as Illinois Sen. Richard Yates pointed out, opponents of expansionism employed arguments extremely reminiscent of proslavery ideology, while its supporters upheld the principle that nonwhites could be successfully incorporated into the body politic. (No people, quipped Nevada Sen. James W. Nye, were “too degraded” for citizenship: “We have New Jersey, and all things considered, it has proven a success.”)”
26. “The potent cry of white supremacy provided the final ideological glue in the Democratic coalition. Sometimes the appeal to the race was oblique. The Democratic slogan, “The Union as It Is, the Constitution as It Was,” had as its unstated corollary, blacks as they were—that is, as slaves. Often, it was remarkably direct. “Slavery is dead,” the Cincinnati Enquirer announced at the end of the war, “the negro is not, there is the misfortune.”
27. “The fundamental underpinning of this interpretation was the conviction, to quote one member of the Dunning School, of “negro incapacity.” The childlike blacks, these scholars insisted, were unprepared for freedom and incapable of properly exercising the political rights Northerners had thrust upon them.
The fact that blacks took part in government, wrote E. Merton Coulter in the last full-scale history of Reconstruction written entirely within the Dunning tradition, was a “diabolical” development, “to be remembered, shuddered at, and execrated.” Yet while these works abounded in horrifying references to “negro rule” and “negro government,” blacks in fact played little role in the narratives.
Their aspirations, if mentioned at all, were ridiculed, and their role in shaping the course of events during Reconstruction ignored. When these writers spoke of “the South” or “the people,” they meant whites. Blacks appeared either as passive victims of white manipulation or as an unthinking people whose “animal natures” threatened the stability of civilized society.2”
28. “He accused Democrats of attempting to “dehumanize the negro—to take away from him the right of ever striving to be a man…to make property, and nothing but the property of the Negro in all the states of this Union.” In the rhetorical high point of the seven debates, he identified the long crusade against slavery with the global progress of democratic egalitarianism: That is the real issue.
That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and wrong—throughout the world…. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings…. It is the same spirit that says, “You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.”
No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.30 While”
29. “In 1863 West Virginia was admitted to the Union as a separate state, with the proviso that it abolish slavery. A popular referendum then approved a plan whereby all blacks born after July 4, 1863, would enjoy freedom. By the end of the war, complete emancipation had been enacted.”
30. “But the abolition laws of the other northern states freed no living slave. Rather, slave children born after a specified date would work for the mother’s owner as indentured servants until well into adulthood (age twenty-eight, for example, in Pennsylvania, far longer than what was customary for white indentured servants), and only then would become free.
Most Latin American nations also allowed slaveholders to retain ownership of existing slaves, as well as the labor of their children for a number of years. These laws, in effect, required slaves to compensate their owners for their freedom by years of unpaid labor. As one official wrote, they “respected the past and corrected only the future.” In”
Eric Foner Reconstruction
Reconstruction refers to the period, generally dated from 1865 to 1877, during which the nation’s laws and Constitution were rewritten to guarantee the basic rights of the former slaves, and biracial governments came to power throughout the defeated Confederacy.
Eric Foner Net Worth
Eric’s Net Worth is an average $10 Million dollars.