Remembering the Civil War

In Eric Foner’s book review of “Race and Reunion”, by David Blight, we discover the study of “historical memory”. Historical memory is the way the public generally reflects on an event in history. The significance of a historical event can often be undermined by the public sentiment, political atmosphere, or government propaganda surrounding the event. Foner and Blight show us that it was a combination of these factors that led to a modern society with a very skewed idea of what the Civil War really was.

Blight’s book sounds interesting because it studies the “emancipationist” versus the “reconciliationist”. The former would reflect on the Civil War as a fight for the emancipation of black slaves and for racial equality in America. The latter, on the other hand, would tell you that the war was a brave struggle to mend a broken nation, and would focus very little on the actual issues that divided America. It would be stimulating to examine the reconcilitionist ideology and learn why the message of the war was so clearly misplaced. And indeed, those who agree with the reconciliationist perspective may be the ones who benefit most from reading the book.

Foner praises the book as “the most comprehensive and insightful study of the memory of the Civil War yet to appear”. He writes about the book’s attempt to include African American perspectives on the war to give a more whole memory of what happened. He also eagerly discusses the book’s careful examination of political proponents to the reconciliationist mindset. Although Foner points out a few of the book’s shortcomings, he definitely seems to be a fan of the book’s main message.

To this day, the Civil War remains the single greatest battle for racial equality and freedom in America’s history. However, in Eric Foner’s book review of “Race and Reunion”, we discover that not everyone sees this side of the story. Instead, some people reflect on the war as a valiant fight to unite a divided nation, glorifying the white soldiers that stood behind the guns as opposed to the ideology that stood behind the entire war.

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