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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

on January 14, 2018
On time, as described.
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on January 28, 2017
Starts off slow but it turns into a book you can't put down.
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on March 1, 2014
The Colfax Massacre is another story how racism claimed the lives of Black men in the Deep South. It is unbelievable how men in the Deep South could be so cruel and hateful against a people who were different than they. This is another story of man's inhumanity towards humanity. People that claim this is a Christian nation should read this account of baptized believers killing other people.
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on May 13, 2013
I learned many things about my home state that was not taught in school. History subject matter is outstanding, really held my interest!
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on August 15, 2013
LeeAnna Keith unmasks one of the greatest racial tragedies in the Post-Civil War South. The book is well written and interesting.
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on January 8, 2008
LeeAnna Keith's book explores what was surely one of the most tragic moments in the history of Reconstruction -- a moment when the hopes of African-Americans and the anger and fear of Southern whites clashed with particular violence. This alone would make it an important story.

However, the book also represents a recovery effort of sorts, because subsequent historians of the period have not given the massacre the treatment it merits. And so, an event that the white community claimed initially with pride for their own defiance has all but ceased to be part of the larger history of Reconstruction...and the massacre has almost seemed to pass in silence.

The recent events in Jena, Louisiana prove that the tensions and ironies surrounding race, class and identity in the American South remain, and that they draw on an old, old symbolic and dramatic vocabulary -- a vocabulary that our history compels us to see clearly.

Keith's work will help us immeasureably to see history and current events with a deeper, if painful new honesty.
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on October 16, 2014
bought this book for a class and I found it very boring and hard to read.
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A truth account, well researched from a huge amount of existing information. A very sad incident of unspeakable terror and murder by Democrat white power advocates. When there should be much more of this incident taught in schools, as well as memorialized, it sadly is not. How can we learn from history, if we do not know it? Along with the following Thibodeauxville, and Pattersonville Massacres, these serve to warn us what ignorance, fear, and hatred can do to human beings and what horror they can wreck on others.
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on May 29, 2010
This short but dense book describes the history of race relations in Grant Parish, Louisiana, leading up to the massacre of approximately 70-150 African-American men barricaded in a courthouse in 1873 and following with the aftermath, which local whites bragged brought an end to the Reconstruction by leading to the effective gutting of the federal laws enforcing minority rights. Over the years, the massacre ceased to hold a place of pride and instead became something to be papered over. (In a clear metaphor, the book opens with a poignant passage about how the skeletons of the killed have on repeated occasions inconveniently come out of the ground.)

The story is fascinating in a sickening way. White racists had put themselves in such a state of permanent hysteria that they could justify to themselves almost any act of brutality to maintain control over those of African descent (and then later get teary eyed about their own heroism). It's been awhile since I've a historical account of the Reconstruction. I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was this bad. In trying to think of the modern equivalents of the White League, the KKK and company, the closest thing I can come up with is the Taliban. They basically murdered their way to power against people they perceived as outsiders until the federal government lost the stomach to fight.

On the other hand, the ranks of the white anti-racists contained one of the most curious figures in US history: Willie Calhoun, the son of the man who is sometimes claimed as the basis for the brutal overseer Simon Legree in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Calhoun was one of the wealthiest plantation owners ever, but after the war, he so went against the grain that he apparently only avoided being murdered by white supremacists because he came across as such a physically pathetic character. (He was short and hunchbacked.) He was aggressive in his support of the rights of the former slaves and put his considerable money where his mouth was.

The former slaves themselves who were central to the events of 1873 aren't as well drawn as much of what we know about them comes from hostile pens. So it's hard to tell the extent to which the descriptions are accurate or merely scurrilously stereotypes. This is particularly an issue with the description of William Ward, who apparently was quick to respond to any attempt at intimidation with counter-threats of violence.

It's hard to review history books: even if you know how to write history, it's very hard to tell how well a historian has used their sources unless you're familiar with them yourself. You're putting much stuck looking for markers of professionalism. Keith certainly has one: she writes well. And her endnotes cite primary sources that wouldn't be easy to find, so this definitely is not one of those books hocked together from other histories. But one thing I find unfortunate is the personal invective. These crimes against humanity speak for themselves. It's not necessary to describe a group that beats a witness to within an inch of his life as `dastardly'. And it only gives those who look for a reason to dismiss her ammunition to use the term `hicks'. (And let's not pretend the past is dead: some people still think that the Confederate flag is cool to display.)

Overall, this sordid episode is too important to overlook, so it's a necessary book to read, even if it's not much fun.
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VINE VOICEon September 2, 2009
As I read more history I begin to undertand why historians say that the transition from the end of the Civil War through Reconstruction, perhaps a total decade or so, shaped the social and cultural landscape of this country for the next 100 years, until the civil rights movement of the 1960's turned things around. One of the emblematic episodes of the Civil War-Reconstruction period was the Colfax Massacre, an incident where more than 150 blacks were killed in a confrontation with whites at a local courthouse in Colfax Louisiana. In 1873, recently freed African Americans sought to ascertain and enforce the rigths that they had won as a result of their freedom, particularly the right to vote. Elections in the South since the end of the war were fraught with irregularites, fraud, intimidation and murder, as they were caught up in the continuing battle between the Federal government's efforts to reconstruct and restrain the old Southern imperatives and the southern conservative white population's efforts to return to their ante bellum world. Northern carpetbaggers, southern Republicans aligned with Federal goals, southern Democrats advocating for southern interests, and white supremacists, in the form of the Klu Klux Klan and similarly motivated groups, created a political landscape that constantly shifted, with democrats and republicans trading elected offices, at one point resulting in the first contested ballot for the governorship.

It is under these circumstances that author LeeAnn Keith relates the events leading up to and following the Colfax Massacre. Her effort to impart the significance of the event generally succeeds; however, at times her writing style - here and there overly dramatic - congests the narrative and makes it difficult to follow the sequence of events and more so the wide and changing cast of characters. Nevertheless, her work provides an important higlight of a particular event that helped set the tone for the next 100 years: after the Colfax defendants were released based on a Supreme Court ruling, giving southern whites unintended judicial endorcement of their pre-war policies, and for all intents and purpose, despite the implicit mandate of the south's loss of the war, sending the message that social and political relations could pretty much return to their pre-war configurations.

I think the book could also have benefited from more details about daily life in Colfax and Louisiana, as these details make only cameo appearances and leave the reader with a superficial sense of the daily context of living in this era. Nevertheless, the book is an important contribution to Civil War and American History literature, provides a clear view of the role that judicial decisions would play in unintentionally aiding and abetting Jim Crow laws, and brings to light the extent of potential political and economic power that freed African Americans had immediately after the end of the war, in the form of judgeships, sherrifs posts and other elected positions, only to be lost after the Colfax Massacre and related judicial decisions.
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