David Blight, Race and Reunion (2001)
David Blight, Race and Reunion (2001)
In his award-winning book, Race and Reunion, David Blight, a historian at Yale University, examines how Americans remembered the Civil War from the middle of the war to the early twentieth century. Drawing upon a wide variety of primary sources, including literature, speeches, and memoirs, he identifies three overall "visions" of Civil War memory that "collided and combined over time": the reconciliationist vision, which ignored the ideological divisions of the war and focused on common sacrifices by Union and Confederate soldiers and civilians; the white supremacist, which marginalized the role of slavery in the war and the significance of abolition; and the emancipationist, which centered on slavery as cause and emancipation as most important legacy of the war. By focusing on topics like decoration days, veterans, politics, and literature, Blight explores how these different visions of memory developed and changed over time and space. His book demonstrates "how the forces of reconciliation overwhelmed the emancipationist vision in the national culture, how the inexorable drive for reunion both used and trumped race." He is careful to note, however, that "the story does not merely dead-end in the bleakness of the age of segregation" and that "the emancipationist vision persisted in American culture during the early twentieth century." Blight covers both the North and the South and therefore does not specifically focus on North Carolina in his book, but he does examine the memories of many residents of the state, including novelists Albion Tourgee and Thomas Dixon, as key purveyors of the different visions of the Civil War.
Blight, David W.
Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.
This book is a history of how Americans remembered their most divisive and tragic experience during the fifty-year period after the Civil War. It probes the interrelationship between the two broad themes of race and reunion in American culture and society from the turning point in the war (1863) to the culmination of its semicentennial in 1915.... Three overall visions of Civil War memory collided and combined over time: one, the reconciliationist vision, which took root in the process of dealing with the dead from so many battlefields, prisons, and hospitals and developed in many ways earlier than the history of Reconstruction has allowed us to believe; two, the white supremacist vision, which took many forms early, including terror and violence, locked arms with reconciliationists of many kinds, and by the turn of the century delivered the country a segregated memory of its Civil War on Southern terms; and three, the emancipationist vision, embodied in African Americans' complex remembrance of their own freedom, in the politics of radical Reconstruction, and in conceptions of the war as the reinvention of the republic and liberation of blacks to citizenship and Constitutional equality. In the end this is a story of how the forces of reconciliation overwhelmed the emancipationist vision in the national culture, how the inexorable drive for reunion both used and trumped race. But the story does not merely dead-end in the bleakness of the age of segregation; so much of the emancipationist vision persisted in American culture during the early twentieth century, upheld by blacks and a fledgling neo-abolitionist tradition, that it never died a permanent death on the landscape of Civil War memory. That persistence made the revival of the emancipationist memory of the war and the transformation of American society possible in the last third of the twentieth century.
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Blight, David W., David Blight, Race and Reunion (2001), Civil War Era NC, accessed April 7, 2020, https://cwnc.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/53.