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American Oracle : The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era



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Harvard Univ Pr
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Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, a century after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, #x1C;One hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.#x1D; He delivered this speech just three years after the Virginia Civil War Commission published a guide proclaiming that #x1C;the Centennial is no time for finding fault or placing blame or fighting the issues all over again.#x1D; David Blight takes his readers back to the centennial celebration to determine how Americans then made sense of the suffering, loss, and liberation that had wracked the United States a century earlier. Amidst cold war politics and civil rights protest, four of America#x19;s most incisive writers explored the gulf between remembrance and reality. Robert Penn Warren, the southern-reared poet-novelist who recanted his support of segregation; Bruce Catton, the journalist and U.S. Navy officer who became a popular Civil War historian; Edmund Wilson, the century#x19;s preeminent literary critic; and James Baldwin, the searing African-American essayist and activist-each exposed America#x19;s triumphalist memory of the war. And each, in his own way, demanded a reckoning with the tragic consequences it spawned. Blight illuminates not only mid-twentieth-century America#x19;s sense of itself but also the dynamic, ever-changing nature of Civil War memory. On the eve of the 150th anniversary of the war, we have an invaluable perspective on how this conflict continues to shape the country#x19;s political debates, national identity, and sense of purpose.

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