Race, Memory and the Civil War

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They say after a trauma, a person has to find a way to deal with the painful past…and move on.

So does a nation. But what if…in moving on…the underlying problem is set aside, never dealt with, only to rear its head again and again? More than 620-thousand Americans died in the trauma of the Civil War. In the years following, the nation had two tasks: to re-unite a divided country, and to repair the injustices of slavery. Historian David Blight says reunion won, and race lost. Memory ennobled soldiers of both the Blue and Gray, but blacks were painted out of the picture.

Blight says our collective memory was engineered for the sake of harmony, but that the new national anthems were full of sour notes – and a discord still hangs over us. We are re-creating memory and sanitizing the anti-slavery underpinnings of the War Between the States.

(hosted by John McChesney)


David W. Blight, author, “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory”;
Dwight Pitcaithley, chief historian, National Park Service;
Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr, Congressman, Second Congressional District of Illinois