Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

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Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Author: David W. Blight
Publisher: Belknap Press
Copyright: 2002
Pages: 528
Cover Price: $ 26.00

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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 blacks 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 black 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.

Background Information

The Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to slavery in the rebellious states in 1863. Before segregation was abolished by President Harry Truman, the American military had policies that kept blacks in their own units under the command of white officers.