Race and Reunion by David W. Blight
The Civil War in American Memory

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Synopsis

No historical event has left as deep an imprint on America's collective memory as the Civil War. In the war's aftermath, Americans had to embrace and cast off a traumatic past. David Blight explores the perilous path of remembering and forgetting, and reveals its tragic costs to race relations and America's national reunion.

In 1865, confronted with a ravaged landscape and a torn America, the North and South began a slow and painful process of reconciliation. The ensuing decades witnessed the triumph of a culture of reunion, which downplayed sectional division and emphasized the heroics of a battle between noble men of the Blue and the Gray. Nearly lost in national culture were the moral crusades over slavery that ignited the war, the presence and participation of African Americans throughout the war, and the promise of emancipation that emerged from the war. Race and Reunion is a history of how the unity of white America was purchased through the increasing segregation of black and white memory of the Civil War. Blight delves deeply into the shifting meanings of death and sacrifice, Reconstruction, the romanticized South of literature, soldiers' reminiscences of battle, the idea of the Lost Cause, and the ritual of Memorial Day. He resurrects the variety of African-American voices and memories of the war and the efforts to preserve the emancipationist legacy in the midst of a culture built on its denial.

Blight's sweeping narrative of triumph and tragedy, romance and realism, is a compelling tale of the politics of memory, of how a nation healed from civil war without justice. By the early twentieth century, the problems of race and reunion were locked in mutual dependence, a painful legacy that continues to haunt us today.

 

About David W. Blight

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David W. Blight is Class of 1954 Professor of History at Yale University.
 
Published February 9, 2001 by Belknap/Harvard Press. 512 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War. Non-fiction

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A new holiday, Decoration Day (later Memorial Day), changed from a simple day of sorrow for Union war dead to a national nonpartisan celebration of all who fell in battle.

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Publishers Weekly

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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 res

Feb 01 2001 | Read Full Review of Race and Reunion : The Civil ...

Publishers Weekly

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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 res

Feb 01 2001 | Read Full Review of Race and Reunion : The Civil ...

Project MUSE

Brundage's account of these southern cultural wars extends the work of David Blight's Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, which also stressed the role of race in shaping the way Americans recalled the Civil War.

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Project MUSE

$29.95 Blight's Race and Reunion is an ambitious, elegant work on the first fifty years of Civil War memory that weaves together several disciplines in masterful fashion but ultimately leaves some critical questions unanswered.

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Project MUSE

Ultimately joining the reconciliationist view was the "white supremacist vision" that was largely propagated by southerners and which eventually contributed to the nation "a segregated memory of its Civil War on Southern terms" (p.

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Project MUSE

For Tourgée, as for millions of other Northern whites initially and for almost all African Americans, the causes of the war were slavery and the South's determination to preserve it;

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