Lessons of Andrew Johnson


I’m reading an interesting biography of Andrew Johnson by Annette Gordon-Reed. Her primary contention is that Johnson was a wonderfully talented man who rose far beyond the expectations of his birth. Johnson utterly failed to recognize that his ability to transcend his station came from the sheer accident of his Whiteness.


Johnson’s intense disdain for the aristocrats of the South was almost entirely about the status of poor Southern Whites. He never connected the condition of poor Whites and poor Blacks who were slaves then newly freed people. It’s sad that the poor of America’s 21st century still struggle so much to make cross-racial coalitions.


It's amazing that we can still learn so much from one of the 19th century's most dramatic failures.





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