Redemption

The Last Battle of the Civil War
Narrated by: Michael Prichard
Length: 8 hrs and 56 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.0 out of 5 stars (49 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A century after Appomattox, the civil rights movement won full citizenship for black Americans in the South. It should not have been necessary: by 1870 those rights were set in the Constitution. This is the story of the terrorist campaign that took them away.

Nicholas Lemann opens his extraordinary new book with a riveting account of the horrific events of Easter 1873 in Colfax, Louisiana, where a white militia of Confederate veterans-turned-vigilantes attacked the black community there and massacred hundreds of people in a gruesome killing spree. This was the start of an insurgency that changed the course of American history: for the next few years, white Southern Democrats waged a campaign of political terrorism aimed at overturning the 14th and 15th Amendments and challenging President Grant's support for the emergent structures of black political power. The remorseless strategy of well-financed "White Line" organizations was to create chaos and keep blacks from voting, out of fear for their lives and livelihoods. Redemption is the first book to describe in uncompromising detail this organized racial violence, which reached its apogee in Mississippi in 1875.

Lemann bases his devastating account on a wealth of military records, congressional investigations, memoirs, press reports, and the invaluable papers of Adelbert Ames, the war hero from Maine who was Mississippi's governor at the time. When Ames pleaded with Grant for federal troops who could thwart the white terrorists violently disrupting Republican political activities, Grant wavered, and the result was a bloody, corrupt election in which Mississippi was "redeemed", that is, returned to white control.

Redemption makes clear that this is what led to the death of Reconstruction and of the rights encoded in the 14th and 15th Amendments. We are still living with the consequences.

©2006 Nicholas Lemann (P)2006 Tantor Media, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Lemann delivers an engrossing...account of a disgraceful episode in American history." (Publishers Weekly)
"[Redemption] is an important contribution to the rewriting of Southern history that began half a century ago with C. Vann Woodward's The Strange Career of Jim Crow, and it may well have comparable influence on our understanding of one of the most shameful periods in our past." (The Washington Post)
"Written on a dramatic human scale, and leavened by some fresh research and analysis, [Redemption] is an arresting piece of popular history." (New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about Redemption

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A good accouting of the post Civil War suffering

This is a good history and accounting of the post Civil War suffering that freed blacks had to endure, but also shows the conviction, bravery and determination that many blacks possessed during this difficult period. I liked everything except the narrator's style. Something about this book left me thinking it could have been much more effective emotionally if narrated by someone else.

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C Vann Woodward and Eric Foner ignored

The book’s discussion about the historiography of Reconstruction ignored C Vann Woodard’s 1955 book The Strange Career of Jim Crow. It’s not a minor omission. MLK Jr. relied on it as his historical “ bible” as he began his relentless campaign to dismantle what Redemption had caused: the social segregation and disenfranchisement of Black Southerners. I only listened to it on Audible, so it may have discussed in notes in the book but it deserved prominent discussion as at least one most significant turning points of how historians and more importantly American’s in general viewed the Redemption and Jim Crow. While his historiography stopped at 1963, he should have also at least acknowledged Eric Foner’s authoritative, sympathetic and now definitive book on Reconstruction, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877. Both of these professors were members of the Columbia University History Department that had previously been the home of the Dunning School (which Lemann did discuss) that had a positive view of Redemption, disenfranchisement of Black voters, and Jim Crow, It’s strange why he didn’t give credit to at least Van Woodard for his contribution to dismantling the Dunning School and his inspiration of those that would go on to dismantle the Redemption.

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a must-read for 2019

A terse, well-researched and absolutely harrowing reminder of what happens when hate-related violence is allowed to flourish untrammeled, by a state wary of wandering into a fray it’s elected to help mitigate. The point of the facts described is firmly ideological, but never once does Lemann let slip his own studious, neutral omniscience. If you ever find yourself wondering why this great country just can’t get along across the “aisle”, wherever the aisle is anymore, read this. Unattended wounds never heal right.