Race and Reunion

Race and Reunion

The Civil War in American Memory

By David W. Blight

Belknap Press, Paperback, 9780674008199, 528pp.

Publication Date: March 2002

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 African Americans 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 African-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. By the early twentieth century, the problems of race and reunion were locked in mutual dependence, a painful legacy that continues to haunt us today.

About the Author
David W. Blight received his B.A. from Michigan State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He 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 has written FREDERICK DOUGLASS'S CIVIL WAR (1989) and RACE AND REUNION: THE CIVIL WAR IN AMERICAN MEMORY, 1863-1915 (2001), which received eight awards, including the Bancroft Prize, the Frederick Douglass Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and four prizes awarded by the Organization of American Historians. His most recent book, A SLAVE NO MORE: THE EMANCIPATION OF JOHN WASHINGTON AND WALLACE TURNAGE (2007), won three prizes. He has edited or co-edited six other books, and his essays have appeared in numerous journals. In 1992-1993 he was senior Fulbright Professor in American Studies at the University of Munich, Germany, and in 2006-2007 he held a fellowship at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, New York Public Library. A consultant to several documentary films, David appeared in the 1998 PBS series, Africans in America and has served on the Council of the American Historical Association.