Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

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Date: Spring 2002
From: African American Review(Vol. 36, Issue 1)
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Document Type: Book review
Length: 889 words

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David W. Blight. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge: Belknap P of Harvard UP, 2001. 397 pp. $29.95.

In his book Race and Reunion, David Blight, Professor of History and Black Studies at Amherst College, has written a sweeping and comprehensive survey of the way in which the Civil War settled itself into the collective memory of Americans, black and white. At a time when works such as The Wind Done Gone and Cane River attest to an awakening interest among black Americans in the Civil War and its ramifications for contemporary African American life, Blight has written the best work yet on the era from 1865 to 1914.

The book shows us how Southerners, decisively whipped on the battlefield, managed, nevertheless, to wrest a victory on the intellectual, social, and economic fronts. They did this by willfully manipulating the national press, historiography, and literature to show that the war had been about states rights, the right to property, and the right to live an agrarian life free of the class strife that supposedly plagued the industrialized North. And so was born the myth of the "Lost Cause," popularized in the movies Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind. Historians, lodged in the nation's greatest universities, wrote book after book extolling the virtues of the "civilization"...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A85185722