Nicholas Lemann, dean of the School of Journalism at Columbia University, is author of The Big Test (FSG, 1999) and the prizewinning The Promised Land. He lives with his family in Pelham, New York.
Focusing on the 1873-75 race war that ex-Confederate vigilante White Leaguers waged in Louisiana and Mississippi, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lemann (dean, Sch. of Journalism, Columbia Univ.; The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America) illustrates the Civil War's meaning as a black-and-white lived experience in the postwar South. Collapsing history into crystalline moments filled not simply with facts but with historic truths, Lemann details the white supremacists' solution to the obvious postwar problem of establishing a place for ex-slaves. With unrestrained antiblack, political violence, Lemann explains, Southern whites rejected the postwar U.S. theory of freedom and sought to "redeem" their vision of America as a land of white supremacy. Using public and private papers, especially those of war hero and carpetbag Mississippi governor Adelbert Ames and his wife, Blanche Butler, Lemann personalizes the gruesome racial politics from which U.S. apartheid and its legacies emerged with the nation's acquiescence. Historians and general readers will find his work scandalously engrossing. Highly recommended for collections on Southern history, U.S. race relations, and the Civil War era.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Historians agree that Reconstruction was a conflict in which the good guys lost. Lemann (The Promised Land) hammers the point home with a grim account of post-Civil War Mississippi. His central figure is Adelbert Ames, a Union general and war hero who fought to preserve the Union, despised abolitionists and considered African-Americans an inferior race. Appointed provisional governor of postwar Mississippi, he was horrified at the violence that whites, a minority, used against blacks trying to vote. As military commander, he provided enough security to ensure a Republican victory in 1869 state elections (blacks voted Republican until the 1930s), became an advocate of civil rights and was elected senator in 1870 and governor in 1873. He worked hard to protect the freedmen but failed, and Lemann's description of the terror campaign against Mississippi blacks makes depressing reading. The book's title refers to the popular version of Reconstruction in which valiant Southern whites "redeemed" their states from corrupt carpetbaggers and ignorant freedmen. Agreeing with recent scholars who consider this another Civil War myth, Lemann delivers an engrossing but painful account of a disgraceful episode in American history. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
"[A] brilliant new book . . . Redemption is accessible and important, and we cannot really understand race or political power in modern America without understanding what happened in the South a decade after Appomattox." --Jon Meacham, Washington Monthly"Lemann . . . has told this sad, heartbreaking story with passion and authority. He does not tar all whites with the brush of racism or violence, and he does not excuse Reconstruction its excesses and mistakes." --Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World"Lemann performs a sterling service in excavating these hidden ruins, and Redemption is a superb, supple work of popular narrative history backed up by sound archival evidence." --Alexander Rose, The New York Observer