A New Birth of Freedom: The Republican Party and Freedmen’s Rights, 1861–1866, is an account of how laws, policies and constitutional amendments defining and protecting the personal liberty and civil rights of the country’s African American population were adopted during the Civil War. A study in legal and constitutional history, it complements and forms a necessary predicate to the social history of emancipation that is the principal focus of contemporary Civil War scholarship. The relevance of the legal dimension in the struggle for black freedom is attested by the observation that many slaves "learned the letter of the law so they could seemingly recite from memory" passages from congressional measures prohibiting the return of escaped slaves to disloyal owners and guaranteeing their personal liberty.
This is a very interesting and useful study.
—The American Journal of Legal History
This is the best, if not definitive study of this . . . topic.
—East Texas Historical Association
Belz has drawn together a vast amount of research to offer a scholarly yet readable account of the Republican’s party drive to fashion a ‘civil rights policy that rested on settled constitutional principles and was intended to guarantee American citizenship and equality before the law to the freed slave population. . . . [T]he reader is presented a clear, well-thought-out account of the republican party’s commitment to a civil rights scheme based on full equality for blacks in the aftermath of Appomattox.