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Chapter 9 - The Civil War in African American Memory

from Part III - Memories, Materialities, and Locations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 March 2021

Eric Gardner
Affiliation:
Saginaw Valley State University
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Summary

Cody Marrs’s “The Civil War in African American Memory” considers the ways in which African American writers in the wake of emancipation tried to answer the question “How should one remember a revolution that was never allowed to complete itself?” During Reconstruction, Marrs argues, two forms of emancipationist memory emerged. On the one hand, many African Americans saw the Civil War as a historical rupture, a break that required commemoration; on the other hand, many saw it as a historical link, part of a longer and enduring struggle for liberation. Marrs retraces how these views of the war took shape in African American life-writings, periodicals, poems, and speeches that used emancipationist memory to reframe the world remade by the Abolition War. That tendency to turn back to the past to apprehend the present, he argues, is the defining feature of African American memory of the war during this period, and it is what ultimately ties these two commemorative modes together, revealing the war to be both an act and a process, an event as well as an ongoing struggle.

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Information
African American Literature in Transition, 1865–1880
Black Reconstructions
, pp. 213 - 232
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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