Bruce Levine begins this compelling book with a prologue recounting Edgar Allan Poe’s famous story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” setting up an elaborate metaphor for the demise of antebellum southern society through the unintentional revolution wrought by the Civil War.
A recent episode of PBS’s American Experience explored how the massive number of deaths in the Civil War sent the nation into shock. The catastrophe—750,000 dead—was equivalent to the U.S. suffering 7 million deaths today. Besides evoking this ghastly experience, Ric Burns’s film Death and the Civil War (reviewed here in the New York Times), which is based on Drew Gilpin’s book The Republic of Suffering, offers a fascinating perspective on current political debates over the size and scope of the federal government.
The 20th century has ended much as it began, with ethnic hostilities in the Balkans, sectarian violence in China, a change of power in South Africa, "reform" in Russia and economic power in the hands of the U.S.
Seven years in the writing, this is a significant and comprehensive history of African Americans and their quest for recognition in the Episcopal Church. It completes a trilogy that began with George Freeman Bragg's History of the Afro-American Group (1922) and continued with Harold Lewis's Yet with a Steady Beat (1996).
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