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The Power of Memory: How to Remember America’s Most Traumatic Crisis

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The Power of Memory: How to Remember America’s Most Traumatic Crisis

By Josh Phillips on Aug 7, 2018

A review of  Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory by David Blight (Harvard University Press, 2001).

In Race and Reunion, historian David Blight recounts the first fifty years after the Civil War in order to describe how Americans of all backgrounds remembered the experiences and lessons of the conflict.  He contends that three distinct visions of Civil War memory developed and collided.  Each vision roughly corresponds to one of the three major groups involved in the war: white Northerners, white Southerners, and African-Americans. The vision of white Northerners is referred to by Blight as the “reconciliationist,” that of white Southerners as the “Lost Cause,” and that of African-Americans as the “emancipationist.” Blight traces out how these views developed through the events of Reconstruction and through the reunions, recollections, and writings of soldiers with specific chapters on memorial holidays, literature, the “Lost Cause”, and black memory.  Blight favors the “emancipationist” vision and concludes that “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.” (2)  :snip: https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/review/the-power-of-memory-how-to-remember-americas-most-traumatic-crisis/

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