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Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
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Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,100 ratings  ·  77 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press (first published January 1st 2001)
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Mikey B.
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A very eloquently written book on the aftermath of the Civil War in the United States. The author’s conclusions, backed by facts, are that reunion (reconciliation) of North and South took precedence over resolving slavery (race) in the South. Reconstruction started out with Lincoln’s address after the war, but ultimately was doomed to failure by the mid-1870s’. Southern racism and power overturned the Reconstruction forces and Jim Crow became ascendant. As pointed out by Mr. Blight, the South lo ...more
Colleen Browne
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
David Blight is one of the most prolific historians alive today. In this book, Blight traces the origins and growth of the Lost Cause myth from the end of the Civil War and examines the impact it has on people all over the country. It is clear that the myth could never have achieved acceptance without the complicity of the North. It is proof beyond a doubt that the North won the war but lost the peace. This book should be required reading for all those who still labor under the illusion that the ...more
James Murphy
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a terribly interesting history. Simply put, Race and Reunion is an examination of how the Civil War came to be remembered in the 50 years following the war and how the racial equality granted during the war came to be forgotten and racism and white supremacy accepted in American society.

Blight's great theme is that the need to reconcile and reunify the 2 sides--north and South--overrode the equality granted African-Americans during the war. The Panic of 1873 hastened the need to end the
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 12, 2015 marked it as to-read
Recommended by BI (one of our rhetoric faculty)
Apr 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
every good citizen should read this.
It might be fair to say that the South lost the Civil War but won the after war. What gets overlooked by some people in the debate about Confederate Statues, those outside of commentaries, is that it is a monument to a traitor. Sorry. But it is. Not only that but to traitors who lost a war that was fought so people could own other people.

The question is how that happened. How did it that we have shown after television show with a former Confederate solider as a lead, one that we are nine times
Kevin Henning
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I first became interested in reading Professor David Blight after listening to his course on the Civil War and Reconstruction on iTunes University. This year’s intense racial strife in America and the recurring arguments over displaying the confederate flag in the south caused me to move “Race and Reunion” to the top of my reading list. The book is an exhaustive examination of the American memory of the meaning of the Civil War in the first 50 years following the south’s defeat. Blight recounts ...more
Lucas Miller
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I went with my mother to a local books a million when I was a senior in High School to special order David W. Blight's essay collection Beyond the Battlefield. I knew that I wanted to study history and that I was particularly interested in historical memory, but didn't know what that actually was. Blight seemed the writer who had the key. I read the essay about Ken Burns's Civil War (something I had watched multiple times at that point), and the rest were way above my head. I eventually sold the ...more
Jun 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book is a polemic disguised as history. Its cornerstone is Blight's revision of the meaning to be taken from the close of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "of the people, by the people, for the people." Blight claims this was a demand for racial equality, and in a timeline sleight of hand he construes the war itself, which commenced in April 1861, as rooted in this sentiment (found nowhere outside Abolitionist writings) supposedly expressed by Lincoln in November 1863.

Only racial equality, whi
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school-reads
It's that time of year when I only read articles and books for school.
This one I really enjoyed and prompted some interesting questions as well as told me a lot of stuff I did not know.
Mar 15, 2010 rated it liked it
I learned about this book while watching yet another of those PBS programs about Abraham Lincoln. By the way, why hasn't some cable TV genius launched a "Lincoln" channel by now? Someone writes a book about the guy every 20 minutes, so there must be a market out there for round-the-clock Abe-mania. But I digress.

So David Blight is on this Lincoln doc, and he has some really intelligent things to say, including this: "History is not just about the remembering, but also the forgetting." And he wro
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Blight asserts that how Americans interpret and remember the Civil War was and continues to be important to our sense of political and regional identity. He writes, “the inexorable drive for reunion both used and trumped race” (2); “Americans have had to work through the meaning of their Civil War in its rightful place - in the politics of memory. And as long as we have a politics of race in America, we will have a politics of Civil War memory.” (4) That the Lost Cause is still alive and well in ...more
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Political Correctness For White Southerners

This was one of the best books I ever read. While today we often misuse the term "political correctness" to label actual moral positions, this book demonstrates that true "political correctness" was applied to make white Southerners feel good about their monstrous stand to die to preserve slavery and later to coverup their deadly inhumane actions to deny African-Americans the right to live as full citizens of the United Staes. What a shameful history t
Feb 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jaclyn by: McDaniel
Blight looks at the struggle between three legacies of the American Civil War in the production of public memory. Reunion is ultimately deemed more important by those with the means of production at the sacrifice of race. While intersectional reconciliation is achieved within 50 years following the war, interracial reconciliation has been largely silenced in the "mass-media market culture" that arose at the turn of the century. With great clarity and insight, Blight gives the reader moments to p ...more
Aug 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book looks at US cultural history from 1863-1913, the 50 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Three forces were at odds and needingto be resolved: The impulse to reunite the country after the Civil War, the full realization of freedom and citizenship for black Americans, and the continuing white supremacy at work throughout the North and South. Blight's thesis is that black American freedom was sacrificed for the cause of reunion by tolerating and continuing white supremacy. The book ...more
Great study of how the civil war was remembered and how memories/interpretations changed over time.
Jul 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
Blight gives us all new ways to think about the Civil War in historical memory. The North may have won the battle, but it's pretty clear that the South won the war for the memory of the war.
Robin Friedman
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reconstruction Versus Reconciliation

Following the end of the Civil War, there was a tension between those who favored a strict reconstuction of the governments of the defeated South and those who favored a reconciliationist approach. The reconstructionists, led by the Radical Republicans in Congress wanted to protect,implement, and perhaps expand the rights of the newly freed blacks. The reconciliationists favored putting the Civil War behind the United States and creating a sense of nationalism
David Valentino
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Who Shaped Your View of the American Civil War?

Even before the Civil War ended, people began forming their own memories about it, in particular about what caused it. Depending upon when and where you grew up in the U.S., it’s a good bet you may not share the same understanding of the cause. In fact, if you think about the Civil War at all, you probably focus on the battles, the generals, the valiantness of soldiers, and the like. You may not even use the term Civil War, but maybe War Between the
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was certainly an eye-opener with little known facts missing from the history books when I was matriculating at West High School in Rochester, N.Y. During my college undergraduate years, these accounts were still missing from mainstream American History textbooks. Dr. Blight did an excellent job at explaining how 'Decoration Day' founded by ex-slaves to commemorate the death of Union Soldiers was a precursor to the Memorial Day celebrations. 'Race and Reunion' is also a scholarly examin ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I read this year. It was mentioned as a resource in an article I read in the NY Times about the statues of Confederate heroes that had come under such scrutiny in the past few months. This book (which was first published in 2001) is a thorough examination of the changes in perception of slavery and human rights in America in the era of the Civil War and afterwards. Very good discussions of the issues which serve as a corrective to the common perceptions of that time in our ...more
Amber H.
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Had to read this and review it for my Memory and History course in grad school. If you are looking for a book that might help you understand why the United States *still* has race issues (in addition to other ones as well), this book will definitely help you on that journey. This work is dense with information regarding the Reconstruction era and how America dealt with the violence and destruction of its Civil War.
Patrick Abdalla
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books every American should read.
It explains how, from shortly after the Civil War through the early half of the 20th century, the south won the propaganda battle, bringing sympathy to its side through a revisionist history of who the confederacy really was and how the government and society viewed race and racial issues.
Will H
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"if war among the whites brought peace and liberty to the blacks, what will peace among the whites bring...? In what position will this stupendous reconciliation leave the colored people?" -Frederick Douglass, 7/4/1876 centennial speech
Aaron Urbanski
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was published right around the time Mort Kunstler paintings of Confederate Generals adorned the walls of my bedroom and (yikes) high school locker in Northeastern Pennsylvania. If I read this book then perhaps the way I "remembered" America's civil war would've looked different.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Would highly recommend, but man, I had to pump myself up to finish 25-30 pages a day. Very dense.
Jack Townsend
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Excellent history and analysis of the South's creation of myth about the Civil War and the causes of the Civil War. Myths are not necessarily false (true or false in this sense not necessarily binary, but a blended truthness or falseness). The myth the South created (with the complicity of many in the North) was on the false side of the spectrum, essentially whitewashing the evils of slavery and its role in causing the South to secede to protect and preserve its peculiar institution from the abo ...more
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Emily by: S. Attewell
David Blight reads the Lost Cause so you don't have to.

This book is a detailed prose bibliography of writings on the Civil War between the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the veteran's reunion at Gettysburg in 1913, which is both a weakness and a strength.

The core of Blight's analysis appears mostly in the Prologue and Epilogue; readers of history who enjoy being swept along by a narrative may not find what they're looking for here.

However, the choices of quotations from the writings and s
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
The common wisdom is that history is written by the victors- this is complicated in the case of an unsuccessful Civil War, when the victors and losers find themselves on the same side, and multiple groups have conflicting interests in reunification, maintaining a legacy, and shaping their own memory. This is a history book about the creation of history- a very detailed look at how interpretation of the meaning of the Civil War was being shaped as soon as it ended. Northern politicians who needed ...more
Dan Gorman
May 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, us-history
Essential history. A cultural history companion to Eric Foner's works on Reconstruction and Steven Hahn's A Nation Under Our Feet, David Blight's Race and Reunion charts the competing visions of Reconstruction – white supremacy, white-driven reconciliation of North and South, and the emancipationism of African Americans and Radical Republicans – in the fifty years after the Civil War ended. Blight calls the work a synthesis, but it still appears to be a work of tremendous original research, weav ...more
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David W. Blight is Class of 1954 Professor of American History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. He is the author or editor of a dozen books, including American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era; and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory; and annotated editions of Douglass’s first two autobiogr ...more
“The greatest enthusiasts for Civil War history and memory often displace complicated consequences by endlessly focusing on the contest itself. We sometimes lift ourselves out of historical time, above the details, and render the war safe in a kind of national Passover offering as we view a photograph of the Blue and Gray veterans shaking hands across the stone walls at Gettysburg. Deeply embedded in an American mythology of mission, and serving as a mother lode of nostalgia for antimodernists and military history buffs, the Civil War remains very difficult to shuck from its shell of sentimentalism.” 3 likes
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