Redemption for Whom?

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Lemann’s Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War gives the reader an account of events, many of which are violent, just after the end of the Civil War. On the surface, Lemann spends great time documenting the violence faced by southern blacks and the life of Adelbert Ames. However, the backdrop is more complex and deals with the changing environment in the United States. Most importantly, the need of the United States needed to integrate four million former slaves into society. Lemann states the purpose of this book is to answer the question “what kinds of lives black people might live in the South now depended on the freed slaves’ organizing abilities and on the reliability of their voting rights” (xi). The subtitle, The Last Battle of the Civil War, correctly states that although the Civil War had officially ended the battle stilled raged physically, politically, and through public sentiment.
First, Lemann documents horrible accounts of violence against freed blacks. The casual observer views the underlying reasons for these attacks as simple racial hatred. However, Lemann connects the acts of violence to show an orchestrated movement intended to undermine both keys to the freed blacks’ quality of life, organizing abilities and voting rights. Violence against blacks existed for years, but in the form of a master supposedly disciplining his slave. The acts of violence outlined by Lemann show a shift from fear and ignorance to organized intimidation. After all, whites of the time viewed themselves “as protectors of [the] natural order” meaning racial superiority (65). What first started as a fear of being the minority turned quickly to a fear of losing political power and economic wealth. In the end, the use of violence all...

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...ward expansion and Northerner’s own view of racial superiority over blacks to care about what was occurring in the south (186).
In conclusion, the Civil War ended in principle and name only with General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. White Southerners would not accept the freed blacks as equals specifically with full civil and voting rights as granted by the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments (28). Lamar accomplishes his goal of defining the last battle of the Civil War. Southern whites’ use of physical violence, political maneuvering, and public persuasion resulted in Redemption not for freed Blacks, but for the southern whites. A victory so sound that it would sway historical accounts of what Reconstruction was actually about.

Works Cited

Lemann, Nicholas. Redemption: The Last Battle of The Civil War, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. Print.
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