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In May 1866, just a year after the Civil War ended, Memphis erupted in a three-day spasm of racial violence that saw whites rampage through the city's black neighborhoods. By the time the fires consuming black churches and schools were put out, forty-six freed people had been murdered. Congress, furious at this and other evidence of white resistance in the conquered South, launched what is now called Radical Reconstruction, policies to ensure the freedom of the region’s four million blacks - and one of the most remarkable experiments in American history.
Stephen V. Ash's A Massacre in Memphis is a portrait of a Southern city that opens an entirely new view onto the Civil War and its aftermath. A momentous national event, the riot is also remarkable for being "one of the best-documented episodes of the American nineteenth century." Yet Ash is the first to mine the sources available to full effect.
Bringing postwar Memphis to vivid life, he takes us among newly arrived Yankees, former Rebels, boisterous Irish immigrants, and striving freed people, and shows how Americans of the period worked, prayed, expressed their politics, and imagined the future. And how they died: Ash's harrowing and profoundly moving present-tense narration of the riot has the immediacy of the best journalism.
Told with nuance, grace, and a quiet moral passion, A Massacre in Memphis is Civil War-era history like no other.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Rodney on 11-08-13
I bought this book after reading the authors other book that is available on Audible. I very much enjoyed that book as the author put together a book that was a collection of private diaries, narrated things at times but mostly was more of an editor than anything. That book was interesting in that he let the people speak and mostly kept his opinions out of it.
This book is the exact opposite of that. Instead of letting the story tell itself the author feels to the need to constantly lecture you to make sure you get the point. He overstates the obvious over and over, instead of approaching the story from a historical point of view he approaches it like a someone on a moral crusade. The author is so biased in the way he presents information its completely natural to wonder what he left out. We're all very well aware that blacks were treated badly, but the way to show that would have been to let each party tell their story themselves. The author notes at the beginning of the book how well documented this event was, yet rarely seems to use much of that documentation for anything.
Overall this book was very frustrating since if the author stuck to his previous format he could have made an interesting book that would have been a good read on a subject that many people know nothing about.
It's not a worthless book, but it's nowhere near a good book. Locals to Memphis might find this book to be more enjoyable as it has a good amount of location information. I know nothing of Memphis and didn't find it distracting, but someone that knew the area would probably be able to pick up some interesting tidbits.
The reader was acceptable, nothing special but not bad either.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful