Harris, William Charles 1933–

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Harris, William Charles 1933–

PERSONAL: Born February 7, 1933, in Mt. Pleasant, AL; son of Orrie N. and Ethel Harris; married, 1960; children: three. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: University of Alabama, A.B., 1954, M.A., 1959, Ph.D., 1965. Politics: Independent.

ADDRESSES: Home—Raleigh, NC. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Millsaps College, Jackson, MS, assistant professor, 1963–68, associate professor of history, 1969–79; North Carolina State University, Raleigh, professor of history, 1976–2004, professor emeritus, 2004–. Knox College, member of board of advisors for Abraham Lincoln Studies Center; member of Abraham Lincoln Institute and Lincoln forum.

MEMBER: Society of Civil War Historians, Abraham Lincoln Association, Southern Historical Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1968–69; shared Lincoln Prize for Civil War Scholarship, 1998; diploma of honor, Lincoln Memorial University, 2003; Abraham Lincoln Book Award, 2004.


Leroy Pope Walker: Confederate Secretary of Labor, Confederate Centennial Studies (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1962.

Presidential Reconstruction in Mississippi, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1967.

The Day of the Carpetbagger: Republican Reconstruction in Mississippi, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1979.

William Woods Holden: Firebrand of North Carolina Politics, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1987.

North Carolina and the Coming of the Civil War, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources (Raleigh, NC), 1988.

With Charity for All: Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1997.

Lincoln's Last Months, Belknap Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Scholar William Charles Harris is a specialist in the politics and economics of the South during Reconstruction and on Abraham Lincoln. According to a Choice reviewer, in Presidential Reconstruction in Mississippi, Harris "attempted, most successfully," in his "well organized, tightly written book," to detail post-Civil War economic and political events in Mississippi. He begins by analyzing the desire of the populace for peace, which became apparent late in the war. He continues by studying the differences between the Whig and Democratic political parties, particularly their impact on the Mississippi Black Codes, a set of discriminatory laws that prohibited blacks from exercising their rights as American citizens.

Other scholars also found Presidential Reconstruction in Mississippi valuable. "This study is well organized, based upon extensive research and [is] completely and conventionally documented. It is most definitely a scholarly contribution that should help fill the historical hiatus during a crucial period of American development," reported Edna Burke Jackson in the Journal of Negro History. Jackson added: "The great value of this study would seem to be in the tremendous amount of detail and facts relevant to Mississippi during the Presidential Reconstruction years that have heretofore been unavailable to the scholarly community." Guy J. Gibson noted in the Journal of American History that "materials on Negro labor, credit, agriculture, railroads, and levees provide important additions to earlier works." He concluded that the work "is a valuable addition to the literature of Reconstruction" and "should appear on every reading list in courses on Reconstruction and Southern history."

In The Day of the Carpetbagger: Republican Reconstruction in Mississippi, Harris attempts to explain why so many Republican programs failed, touching on such topics as education, economic development, and the differences between rural and urban life. According to a Choice contributor, The Day of the Carpetbagger lacks in the areas of social and economic history, but is otherwise "exceptionally well written and well informed," numbering among the "finest modern studies" of the era and locale. Harris's "two volumes constitute a prodigious work, much the most circumstantial account of statewide reconstruction anywhere in the South," wrote Richard N. Current in the American Historical Review. Thomas J. Davis wrote in Library Journal that Harris presents a "provocative view" of political realities. With his "excellent handling" of such topics as education, the growth of railroads, temperance, the criminal justice system, and school attendance regulations, Harris "makes his most valuable contribution, going far beyond [James] Garner," author of the 1901 study and standard account, Reconstruction in Mississippi.

Harris focuses on a controversial historical figure in his biography William Woods Holden: Firebrand of North Carolina Politics. During the 1850s, Holden was a pivotal figure in North Carolina politics, as well as the editor of the most influential newspaper in the state. The work received qualified praise. In a Journal of American History review, Ralph A. Wooster called the biography "carefully researched and skillfully written." Wooster described the work as a "balanced, judicious account of William W. Holden and his role in Southern political affairs," and added, "Through his account of this important figure, the author provides significant insight into the complexities of state and local politics of the time." On the other hand, in the American Historical Review, Horace W. Raper observed that the work closely resembles those of previous authors and that it is a "sanitized study, with the author making the mistake of being a synthesizer rather than an innovator who analyzes and interprets Holden's contributions." Raper cited several areas of "insufficient treatment," especially "family relationships, administrative policies and politics, Ku Kluxism, and Holden's impeachment trial"; yet, he deemed "noteworthy" Harris's account of Holden's rise to political power and disaffection with the Confederate cause. In a Choice review, J.P. Sanson cited William Woods Holden as "a superb political biography."



American Historical Review, April, 1980, Richard N. Current, review of The Day of the Carpetbagger: Republican Reconstruction in Mississippi, 465; October, 1989, Horace W. Raper, review of William Woods Holden: Firebrand of North Carolina Politics, pp. 1178-1179.

Choice, April, 1968, review of Presidential Reconstruction in Mississippi, pp. 256-257; January, 1980, review of The Day of the Carpetbagger, p. 1498; June, 1988, J.P. Sanson, review of William Woods Holden, pp. 1618-1619.

Journal of American History, September, 1968, Guy J. Gibson, review of Presidential Reconstruction in Mississippi, pp. 406-407; December, 1988, Ralph A. Wooster, review of William Woods Holden, pp. 953-954.

Journal of Negro History, July, 1968, Edna Burke Jackson, review of Presidential Reconstruction in Mississippi, pp. 275-276.

Library Journal, May 15, 1979, Thomas J. Davis, review of The Day of the Carpetbagger, p. 1138.

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