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A Brief Moment in the Sun: Francis Cardozo and Reconstruction in South Carolina

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A Brief Moment in the Sun is the first scholarly biography of Francis Lewis Cardozo, one of the most talented and influential African Americans to hold elected office in the South between Reconstruction and the civil rights era. Born to a formerly enslaved African American mother and white Jewish father in antebellum South Carolina, Cardozo led a life of extraordinary achievement as a pioneering educator, politician, and government official. However, today he is largely unknown in South Carolina and among students of nineteenth-century American history.

Immediately after the Civil War, Cardozo succeeded in creating and leading a successful school for formerly enslaved children in the face of widespread racial hostility. Between 1868 and 1877, voters elected him secretary of state and state treasurer. In the Republican administrations that controlled the state during Reconstruction, Cardozo was a famously honest officeholder when many of his colleagues were notoriously corrupt. He played a major part in securing a viable educational system for Black and white children and land reform for thousands of landless families. Cardozo proved that Black men could govern at least as well as white. As a result, he became the target of white supremacist Democratic politicians after they reclaimed power through a campaign of violence and intimidation. They prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned Cardozo on a fabricated fraud charge. Pardoned in 1879, Cardozo moved to Washington DC, where he led an even more successful school for African American children.

Neil Kinghan's Brief Moment in the Sun is the first complete historical analysis of Francis Cardozo and his contribution to Reconstruction and African American history. It draws on original research on Cardozo's early life and education in Scotland and England and pulls together for the first time the extant sources on his experiences in South Carolina and Washington, DC. Kinghan reveals all that Cardozo achieved as a Black educator and political leader and explores what else he might have realized if white racism and violence had not ended his efforts in South Carolina. Above all, Kinghan shows that Francis Cardozo deserves a place of honor and distinction in the history of nineteenth-century America.

ISBN-13: 9780807178997

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: LSU Press

Publication Date: 03-22-2023

Pages: 272

Product Dimensions: 8.82h x 5.75w x 0.79d

Series: Southern Biography

Neil Kinghan holds a doctorate in history from University College London. He is a former director general for local and regional government in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister of England and a former director general of the U.K.'s Equality and Human Rights Commission.