A sobering account of the true end of Reconstruction, long suppressed in favor of the self-serving fairy tale peddled by the...

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REDEMPTION

THE LAST BATTLE OF THE CIVIL WAR

The Civil War ended not with Lee's surrender in 1865, but ten years later, with the triumph of white supremacy throughout the unrepentant South.

After an opening chapter on anti-black violence in Colfax, La., in 1871, Lemann (The Big Test, 1999) turns to Adelbert Ames (1835–1933), a West Point graduate who fought in 16 Civil War battles and who rose to the rank of brigadier general, won a Medal of Honor, then commanded federal troops overseeing Reconstruction in the South. Under his supervision, Mississippi enacted a constitution granting former slaves the vote, and elected a largely Republican legislature that, in 1870, sent Ames to the U.S. Senate. In Washington, he met and married Blanche Butler, daughter of a union general widely viewed as a possible successor to U.S. Grant as president. But with Ames’s 1873 election as governor of Mississippi, the tide began to turn. Eager to recapture power, white Mississippians began a campaign of ruthless intimidation. Republican rallies were broken up by Democratic gunmen who blamed the violence on blacks. In Vicksburg, armed whites ousted the Republican sheriff and murdered anyone who dared resist their rule. Ames asked for federal troops to restore order. But the president, more concerned with courting Northern businessmen, vacillated. Finally, the opposing parties agreed to end the violence—too late to save the Republicans. The 1876 election saw Mississippi blacks staying away from the polls in droves; those who attempted to vote were driven away at gunpoint. In the end, Ames resigned his governorship to avoid impeachment, and Reconstruction came to an end. Southern blacks would not receive full citizenship for nearly another century.

A sobering account of the true end of Reconstruction, long suppressed in favor of the self-serving fairy tale peddled by the victors.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2006

ISBN: 0-374-24855-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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