Redemption by Nicholas Lemann
The Last Battle of the Civil War

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A century after Appomattox, the civil rights movement won full citizenship for black Americans in the South. It should not have been necessary: by 1870 those rights were set in the Constitution. This is the story of the terrorist campaign that took them away.

Nicholas Lemann opens his extraordinary new book with a riveting account of the horrific events of Easter 1873 in Colfax, Louisiana, where a white militia of Confederate veterans-turned-vigilantes attacked the black community there and massacred hundreds of people in a gruesome killing spree. This was the start of an insurgency that changed the course of American history: for the next few years white Southern Democrats waged a campaign of political terrorism aiming to overturn the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and challenge President Grant'ssupport for the emergent structures of black political power. The remorseless strategy of well-financed "White Line" organizations was to create chaos and keep blacks from voting out of fear for their lives and livelihoods. Redemption is the first book to describe in uncompromising detail this organized racial violence, which reached its apogee in Mississippi in 1875.

Lemann bases his devastating account on a wealth of military records, congressional investigations, memoirs, press reports, and the invaluable papers of Adelbert Ames, the war hero from Maine who was Mississippi's governor at the time. When Ames pleaded with Grant for federal troops who could thwart the white terrorists violently disrupting Republican political activities, Grant wavered, and the result was a bloody, corrupt election in which Mississippi was
"redeemed"--that is, returned to white control.
Redemption makes clear that this is what led to the death of Reconstruction--and of the rights encoded in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. We are still living with the consequences.


About Nicholas Lemann

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Nicholas Lemann, a native of New Orleans, developed an interest in journalism during his teenage years. This eagerness to write was coupled with a keen interest in United States history and literature. He pooled his curiosities, earning a degree in American literature and history from Harvard University in 1976. Journalism became Lemann's main occupation, as he built his writing career through working for the Washington Monthly, Texas Monthly, and the Washington Post. In 1983, he joined the Atlantic Monthly staff. His love for American history peaked with the publication of his commentary on the African-American migration to Chicago in search of jobs and a better life. Lemann's book, The Promised Land, captured the 1991 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in journalism. His articles span many interests, from book reviews and political topics to travel stories about the Catskill Mountains and other natural wonders. He contributes many articles, not only to the Atlantic Monthly but to several other magazines as well. Nicholas Lemann, his wife Dominique Browning, and their two sons live in New York City.
Published August 21, 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 273 pages
Genres: History, War, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Literature & Fiction, Business & Economics. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Redemption

The New York Times

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Lemann shows far less indulgence toward Grant, who appears mainly as a confused, politically expedient sellout.

Sep 10 2006 | Read Full Review of Redemption: The Last Battle o...

The New York Times

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Following a recent academic re-evaluation, Nicholas Lemann affirms the Reconstruction as a noble, thwarted experiment.

Sep 10 2006 | Read Full Review of Redemption: The Last Battle o...

Publishers Weekly

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As military commander, he provided enough security to ensure a Republican victory in 1869 state elections (blacks voted Republican until the 1930s), became an advocate of civil rights and was elected senator in 1870 and governor in 1873.

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