Race and reunion: the Civil War in American memoryBut the meaning of the Civil War depends a great deal upon how it is remembered. Recent debates over such issues as whether Virginia should celebrate April as "Confederate History Month," whether the city of Richmond should include a mural of Robert E. Lee as part of its Canal Walk along the James River, or whether the Confederate battle flag should fly over the South Carolina Capitol or even on its grounds, indicate that there is substantial disagreement over the war's enduring significance. In this wide-ranging cultural history of the half-century following the war, Blight examines Reconstruction, the soldiers' reminiscences of battle, the emergence of a romanticized South in the popular literature of the day, competing African-American memories of slavery and the war, and the ritual of Memorial Day. According to Blight, the post-war era engendered three competing memories of the conflict. One, arising out of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln's Second Inaugural, remembered the war as a struggle for freedom, a rebirth of the Republic that led to the liberation of blacks and their elevation to citizenship and constitutional equality.
David Blight - The Civil War in American Memory
Race and reunion: the Civil War in American memory
By David W. Cambridge, Mass. As a boy growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, about five blocks from the first White House of the Confederacy, one could not escape all the memorabilia about the War between the States or what is called the Lost Cause. We used to joke that white men kept too much Confederate money in their mattresses and white women had seen Gone With the Wind too many times. At that time, I never really grasped the full implications of the Southern whites' attempts at ennobling themselves and their families. The rhetoric of Confederate general Bradley Johnson captures the sentiment of the Lost Cause: "a glorious, organic civilization destroyed by an avaricious 'industrial society' determined to wipe out its cultural foes" One would think that the antebellum South was the center of the civilized world.
David W. Cambridge: Harvard University Press , A long-awaited book by one of the finest historians of the Civil War era, Race and Reunion lives up to high expectations. David Blight, the Class of Professor of History and Black Studies at Amherst College, demonstrates that a national memory based on reconciliation triumphed over at least several other competing and equally important "memories" of the war. By the early s, Blight contends, sectional harmony had emerged as the dominant motif in many histories, commemorations, reunions, monuments, novels, and plays. Competing narratives were diminished or erased. One of those narratives was the story of slavery, emancipation, and freedom.
Civil War History
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