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Race and reunion : the Civil War in American memory
Blight, David W.
Adult Nonfiction E468.9 .B58 2001

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Almost all the dominant views of the Civil War and its aftermath, including Reconstruction and "reunion," prevalent in this country until the coming of the civil rights movement, were the direct result of an extensive Southern propaganda war, argues Blight (Amherst College professor of history and black studies), remnants of which are still flourishing in various racist subcultures. As W.E.B. Du Bois noted a century ago, shortly after the war, the North was tacitly willing to accept the South's representation of the conflict in exchange for an opening of new economic frontiers. Blight sets out to prove this thesis, surveying a mass of information (the end notes run to almost 100 pages) clearly and synthetically, detailing the mechanics of mythmaking: how the rebels were recast as not actually rebelling, how the South had been unjustly invaded, and how, most fabulously of all, the South had fought to end slavery which had been imposed upon it by the North. His argument that this "memory war" was conducted on a conscious level is supported by the Reconstruction-era evidence of protest, by blacks and whites alike, that he unearths. Yet these voices failed to dissuade the vast majority of Americans both North and South who internalized some version of the story. This book effectively traces both the growth and development of what became, by the turn of the 20th century and the debut of The Birth of a Nation, the dominant racist representation of the Civil War. A major work of American history, this volume's documentation of the active and exceedingly articulate voices of protest against this inaccurate and unjust imagining of history is just one of its accomplishments. (Feb. 19) Forecast: This book will be the standard for how public perceptions of the Civil War were formed and propagated in a manner directly analogous to today's doublespeak and spin control. It will be a regular on course syllabi, and will be glowingly reviewed, but the wealth and diversity of sources may keep some general readers away. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Blight (history and black studies, Amherst Coll.; Frederick Douglass' Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee) traces America's tragic pursuit of national reunification and reconciliation after the Civil War at the expense of the conflict's emancipationist legacy. He ponders such threats to this legacy as Lost Cause myths, fading and sometimes revisionist veteran recollections, financial panics and commercial greed, political scandals, "loyal" slave narratives, urbanization and industrialization, and the emotionally charged rituals of war-related celebration days, among others. The author resurrects the voices and prose of African American activists who fought to preserve the emancipationist legacy in an indifferent, even hostile, milieu. Blight notes that the process of national reconstruction was rooted in an American paradox: "the imperative of healing and the imperative of justice could not, ultimately, cohabit the same house. The one was the prisoner of memory, the other a creature of law." Recommended for most libraries, particularly those with strong African American collections.DJohn Carver Edwards, Emeritus Univ. of Georgia Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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