ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Review: Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Updated on December 28, 2016
J Schatzel profile image

J. Schatzel works in healthcare administration in rural upstate New York and has a master's degree in history.

Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Throughout Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, historian David W. Blight analyzes the period of Reconstruction and the following years during which such events as the Compromise of 1877 (138), the election of Rutherford B. Hayes (237), and the withdrawal of Union troops from the former confederacy; which Blight asserts left the freedmen to live amongst southern whites who still retained an ideology of racial supremacy and racially based social hierarchy (252). Blight uses primary source documentation to validate his thesis, providing a thematically organized synthesis of the means through which African Americans “had become alienated from the national community’s remembrance of its most defining event” (380).

According to Blight’s thesis, in the years following the Civil War, white Americans emphasized the triumph of a culture of reunion, minimizing the attention to sectional divisions to enable a sense of increased solidarity between whites of the north and the former Confederacy (59). Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory is a densely detailed history of how the unity of white America was achieved through the increasing segregation of black and white memory of the Civil War (481) amidst a national culture in which the moral dilemma of slavery that preceded the war, the presence and participation of African Americans throughout the Civil War, as well as the emancipation of slaves (371).

Blight analyzes such occurrences as the unveiling of Richmond Virginia’s monument to Robert E. Lee in the 1890s as the basis of the entry of the “Lost Cause” ideology into acceptance by the American public (258-264) as images of "loving Mammies" and "faithful slaves" became the foundation of Southern assertions that "emancipation had ruined an ideal in race relations" (286-287). Juxtaposing the writings of Ambrose Bierce and W. E. B. Du Bois, Blight asserts that Bierce's work was conflicted regarding the results of the war and the emancipation of slaves, and it was “tinged with admiration for the Confederate foe,” whereas Du Bois, on the other hand, focused on the tragic fate of "the nameless freed people, liberated and self liberated in a terrible war” (68).

In a synthesis of vast amounts of documents for a broad audience, Blight analyzes the African American view of the Civil War. Using the actions of such African Americans as Frederick Douglass (317), Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (310), Alexander Crummell (317), Francis E. W. Harper (318), Edward Blyden (301), and Booker T. Washington (342-343), Blight provides an overview of African American reactions to reconstruction, emphasizing the increasing loss of hope as circumstances failed to improve as formerly expected by freedmen (345). Blight states that as a result of the Civil War, “the civil and political liberties of African Americans were slowly becoming sacrificial offerings on the altar of reunion" (139).

Blight analyzes the memories of white veterans of the Union and the Confederacy to successfully contend that both sides were linked by a sense of solidarity due to the shared experience of the violence and struggles of participation in the Civil War, as the veterans understood their experiences in the war to have been a struggle for white manhood in a culture of masculinity (208-209). According to Blight, this monograph is “a history of how Americans remembered their most divisive and tragic experience during the fifty year period after the civil war” through the lenses of race and reunion, in an intriguing analysis of the clash of perspectives surrounding reconstruction and reunion in public memory (1).


Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2001.

Special Thanks

Special Thanks to Hartwick College, Oneonta NY, for the use of their library in my research.
Special Thanks to Hartwick College, Oneonta NY, for the use of their library in my research.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)