The Long Reconstruction: The Post-Civil War South in History, Film, and Memory
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A century and a half after the Civil War, Americans are still dealing with the legacies of the conflict and Reconstruction, including the many myths and legends spawned by these events. The Long Reconstruction: The Post-Civil War South in History, Film, and Memory brings together history and popular culture to explore how the events of this era have been remembered.
Looking at popular cinema across the last hundred years, The Long Reconstruction uncovers central themes in the history of Reconstruction, including violence and terrorism; the experiences of African Americans and those of women and children; the Lost Cause ideology; and the economic reconstruction of the American South.
Analyzing influential films such as The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind, as well as more recent efforts such as Cold Mountain and Lincoln, the authors show how the myths surrounding Reconstruction have impacted American culture.
This engaging book is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Reconstruction, historical memory, and popular culture.
man,” with Lincoln constantly weeping and seen praying for the end of the war (and not only that but also frequently seen wearing a shawl like some aged grandmother). The “real” Lincoln, the masterful politician, is nowhere to be seen. On this issue, Chadwick is worth quoting at length: In film after film, from the early years of the silents through made for television films of the 1990s, Lincoln was routinely seen as a gentle giant, a towering emancipator in black suit, shawl and stovepipe hat:
Tennessee. He is now applauded by all as he speaks of the vacant desks no longer vacant, of the fact that the South is back in the Union. This is what Abraham Lincoln lived, fought, and died for, the Union of these states, one and inseparable, now and forever. Thus the myths lived on in 1942, unchallenged and overpowering. The United States was now at war with Germany, Italy, and Japan. The idea of a “united” and reconciled country could accept no historical “truth” about the meaning of reunion
that the cooperation of Southern white people was the key element in Reconstruction—what he defined as the “re-inauguration of the national authority …” His was a “practical” plan open to revision and compromise. “It may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South,” he said regarding Reconstruction.23 But Lincoln himself had doubts that his own scheme to restore the Union would work and to the degree that the federal government could intervene in the Southern states. “We
a note, signing the petition) He was afraid, that's all it was. I don't care to hang a boy for being frightened, either. What good would it do him? (He signs the pardon. Then he gives Hay's leg a few hard thwacks and a squeeze. It hurts a little. Hay winces.) Lincoln did pardon many soldiers accused of desertion and other crimes. This was no fiction. He called them “leg cases.” Yet, he could be a hard man when necessary. Remember, this is the commander in chief who allowed some 267
in his forehead on the day of the Greensboro march. He stated that he and some of his comrades had disrupted the Klan's movie night and then burned a Confederate flag: When I called the Klan a bunch of cowards, there is nothing wrong with that—that's right. Call them murder[er]s the truth is on the video tape. The City Council (of China Grove) at that point, all white, had approved the use of the white Community Center for showing The Birth of a Nation, which is an old film which has been a