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A Massacre in Memphis: The Race Riot That Shook the Nation One Year After the Civil War Hardcover – October 15, 2013
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In 1866, Memphis was a powder keg. Four years of occupation by Federal troops had naturally engendered resentment. Some of the occupation units included African American troops, whose supposed “undisciplined” behavior caused seething hostility among the white “old citizens” of Memphis. Also despised were the white Northerners who flooded into the city at the conclusion of the Civil War. These included highly motivated men and women determined to help uplift emancipated slaves, as well as merchants and “carpetbaggers” out for a quick profit. The explosion came in May. Ash, professor emeritus of history at the University of Tennessee, makes it clear that this was not a “race riot.” Rather, for three days, whites, with the acquiescence and some participation by municipal police, attacked and murdered blacks, raped women, and burned black schools and churches. Ash also shows how the revelations of a subsequent congressional investigation caused outrage in the North and helped radical Republicans shape a tougher Reconstruction policy. This is a revealing account of the racist hatred and brutality that characterized the Reconstruction period. --Jay Freeman
“Meticulous . . . Ash offers remarkable portraits of ordinary Memphians . . . caught up in the tumult of their time . . . riveting.” ―Kirkus (starred review)
“This detailed account of the lengthy riot and its reverberations surges at the reader . . . For those who want to understand the roots of America's racial issues, Ash's captivating and thoughtful book offers explanations and raises many new questions.” ―Publishers Weekly
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I am unsure to whom I would recommend this book, as it appears to further any purpose other than to shine a light on an awful event, the result of which being that no one and no institution winds up looking good or effective in the final analysis. The characterizations of blacks of the day, accurate though they may be, are certainly not inspirational, though a number of the freedmen who were victimized were iin fact good people