Tennessee's Great Sphinx: Governor DeWitt C. Senter and the Collapse of Reconstruction

Brown Bag 2022 Lecture Series with Dr. William E. Hardy
In person & online
Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - 7:00am to 8:00am

In Person Location and Reservations
East Tennessee History Center, 601 South Gay Street, Knoxville, TN 37902 (Seating is limited.) Register on Eventbrite.

Online Reservations
Register on Eventbrite for this event streamed on Zoom

Or visit the ETHS Facebook page at the start of the program to watch this on Facebook Live.

Students of the Civil War era have traditionally paid little attention to the Reconstruction governors in the South and how these governors were an essential part of the Republican Party's machine that sought to secure the fruits of Union victory while maintaining peace during a period marked by great change and strife. Whereas Tennessee's William "Parson" Brownlow is perhaps the best known and often despised of all the Reconstruction governors, his successor, DeWitt C. Senter, may be both the least known and understood. The silent, sphinx-like East Tennessean was thrust into leadership of the state's new Republican Party at a young age and soon found himself in the gubernatorial chair when Brownlow suddenly resigned to take a seat in the United States Senate. Would Senter relax Brownlow's proscriptive policies that barred the former Rebels from the ballot box and usher in an era of "reconciliation" or would he push forward with his party's plans to establish a biracial democracy in the aftermath of slavery? Nobody knew. But Governor Senter's efforts to bridge the political divide and achieve compromise brought about a number of unintended consequences that ultimately led to a political and constitutional revolution and the end of Reconstruction in Tennessee.

About the Speaker
Dr. William E. Hardy earned his Ph.D. in history at the University of Tennessee where he specialized in 19th century American History. He has taught at Tennessee Tech, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and Chattanooga Community College and is currently an Assistant Professor of History and the Lincoln Scholar at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. From 2005 to 2013, he worked at the East Tennessee Historical Society in the Education Department on various programs such as the Teaching American History Grant and National History Day.