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Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War…
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Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War

by Nicholas Lemann

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This book shows how, in 1875, political power in Mississippi was wrested by violent means from the black-supported (and largely black-staffed) Republican government by what was essentially the pre-war white power structure. Many blacks were killed in the state in that year, and blacks were prevented from voting. Lemann's documentation of what happened, based on testimony in Congressional investigations and on other contemporary sources, is impeccable, and his conclusion is overwhelming. Local whites, with the covert and sometimes overt support of whites elsewhere in the South, carried out with extreme violence a successful rebellion against the authority of the U.S. central government. Its purpose -- and result -- was the disenfranchisement of the black population, which in turn led to black political powerlessness, black economic subordination, and Jim Crow. The process, or "Mississippi Plan" was adopted throughout the South in the wake of the Compromise of 1877, which gave the Republicans the Presidency and the Democrats a free hand in the south.

The book is fascinating in itself-- it shows more clearly than anything else I have read how we got from the Emancipation Proclamation to Jim Crow -- but it is also a compelling illustration of the power of political myth. In the latter part of his book, Lemann describes how the racist violence of 1875 was converted into the "Redemption" myth of a valiant Southern effort to oust corrupt carpet-baggers, and restore self-government in the south. This myth took hold not only of popular culture (viz "Birth of a Nation" and "Gone With the Wind") but of serious academic discussion, all the way into the second half of the 20th century. Myths like this can, and do, kill. ( )
1 vote annbury | May 26, 2011 |
4262 Redemption The Last Battle of the Civil War, by Nicholas Lemann (read 20 Jan 2007) This book tells of the lawless way the whites in the South subverted the legal right of the Negroes in the 1870s. Most of the book dwells on Mississippi, and Adelbert Ames, Republican governor of Mississippi and his effort to get President Grant to effectually aid the rule of law in the South. Murder and blatant use of economic power caused blacks not to vote and in 1876 whites regained control of the state. The extensiveness of the use of murder by whites was a surprise even though I knew that in those years the Civil War was won by the South, as to all but outright slavery. The last chapter relates how Reconstruction has been viewed by historians in the years since, and is the most interesting chapter in the book. ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 28, 2007 |
http://www.amazon.com/Redemption-Last-Battle-Civil-War/dp/0374248559/ref=cm_cr-m...

'Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War' is a short (207 pages) non-academic history aimed at the 'general reader' or 'popular audience'. The author is not an historian, but rather is Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism. I write these things not to denigrate the book in any way, but rather to alert the prospective reader to the nature of the book.

The book is well written and focuses on the collapse of reconstruction under the open violent assault of 'White Liners' in Mississippi. This tale is well known and nothing particularly new is added here, but the failure of reconstruction is a hugely important story in American history. You really can not understand 20th century America without understanding what happened in the South after the Civil War.

Ironically one of the better parts of the book comes near the end when Lemann reviews the way the story of Reconstruction was revised beyond all recognition beginning especially in the early 1900's.

Lemann's telling still lends too much credence to the role of so-called Northern carpetbaggers in Reconstruction. The Republican leaders of Reconstruction were not all cut from the same clothe.

Lemann gets off to an extraordinarily bad start with a real howler on the first page when he asserts that the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the areas that the Union Army controlled. Of course, that is exactly incorrect. In fact, perhaps the biggest criticism of the Proclamation was that it freed no slaves because it did not apply in the areas then under Union control.

If you do not know about this crucial piece of history Redemption will give you a reasonably good examination, albeit focused on one state. However, there are far better accounts available, such as Eric Foner's 'A Short History of Reconstruction' (about 300 pages) and the much longer James M. McPherson's 'Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction' or Foner's full scale treatment 'Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877'. ( )
  dougwood57 | Jan 29, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374248559, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:21 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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. Journalist Lemann describes an insurgency that changed the course of American history: from 1873 to 1877 white Southern Democrats waged a campaign of political terrorism to create chaos and keep blacks from voting out of fear for their lives and livelihoods, aiming to overturn the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and challenge President Grant's support for the emergent structures of black political power. The remorseless strategy of well-financed "White Line" organizations culminated in a bloody, corrupt election in which Mississippi was "redeemed"--that is, returned to white control. This led to the death of Reconstruction--and of the constitutional rights of the former slaves. We are still living with the consequences.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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