Freedom Was in Sight

A Graphic History of Reconstruction in the Washington, D.C., Region

By Kate Masur

Freedom Was in Sight

Approx. 192 pp., 7 x 10, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-8018-7
    Published: October 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-8388-1
    Published: October 2024

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Paperback Available October 2024, but pre-order your copy today!

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The Reconstruction era was born from the tumult and violence of the Civil War and delivered the most powerful changes the United States had seen since its founding. Black Americans in Washington, D.C., and its surrounding region were at the heart of these transformations, bravely working to reunite their families, build their communities, and claim rights long denied them. Meanwhile, in the capital, government leaders struggled to reunite and remake the nation. Famous individuals such as Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells played central roles, as did lesser-known figures like Emma Brown, the first African American teacher in Washington's public schools, and lawyer-journalist William Calvin Chase, longtime editor of the Washington Bee.

Freedom Was in Sight! draws on the words and experiences of people who lived during Reconstruction, powerfully narrating how the impacts of emancipation and civil war rippled outward for decades. Vividly drawn by award-winning graphic artist Liz Clarke and written by Pulitzer Prize–finalist Kate Masur, a leading historian of Reconstruction, this rich graphic history reveals the hopes and betrayals of a critical period in American history.

About the Authors

Kate Masur is Board of Visitors Professor of History at Northwestern University and author, most recently, of Until Justice Be Done: America's First Civil Rights Movement, from the Revolution to Reconstruction.

For more information about Kate Masur, visit the Author Page.

Liz Clarke lives in Cape Town, South Africa, where she works as an illustrator. Her work is featured in many graphic histories, including Witness to the Age of Revolution (with Charles F. Walker) and Abina and the Important Men (with Trevor R. Getz).

For more information about Elizabeth Clarke, visit the Author Page.


"Freedom Was in Sight is a revelation. Kate Masur’s exceptional scholarship combined with Liz Clarke’s virtuosic illustrations bring the history of Reconstruction to life with color, texture, and humanity. Never has Reconstruction been rendered in such a dynamic way. No longer is the history an abstraction. Here it leaps from the page. It breathes. It speaks. It haunts. It quakes. I can’t stop thinking about this book."—Clint Smith, author of How the Word Is Passed

"Reconstruction began with emancipation as lived experience and national transformation; it has never really ended. Here, in vivid visuals, a tight narrative, and rich context, Masur and Clarke give readers an experience they will not forget. So much of this story happened in and around the Washington, D.C., region, and the author and artist reveal its most significant constitutional and moral meanings for the eye and the mind. I can only wish I'd had this kind of powerful history of Reconstruction in my youth. This tale of America's second founding in the capital city as thousands of freedmen found new homes and lives is withering, visually stunning, and good history all at once."—David W. Blight, author of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

"This vivid graphic history is a remarkable achievement that belongs in classrooms, in personal and public libraries, and on coffee tables. Following a captivating ensemble of freedom fighters, it takes readers on a journey into cities and rural communities, military camps, homes, schools, lodges, churches, city council chambers, and the halls of Congress where Black freedom was constructed during emancipation and Reconstruction. Kate Masur’s eloquent and masterful storytelling is brought to life with Liz Clarke’s astonishing and moving illustrations. I cannot recommend this book highly enough."—Kidada E. Williams, author of I Saw Death Coming