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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2022

Kathleen Diffley
Affiliation:
University of Iowa
Coleman Hutchison
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
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Summary

In a scathing November 2018 editorial published in The Guardian, public intellectual Rebecca Solnit connected a series of violent white supremacist acts in Charleston, Charlottesville, and Pittsburgh to the Civil War and Reconstruction. Writing with characteristic verve, Solnit concluded, “If you are white, you could consider that the Civil War ended in 1865. But the blowback against Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, the myriad forms of segregation and deprivation of rights and freedoms and violence against black people, kept the population subjugated and punished into the present in ways that might as well be called war.”1 Solnit’s was in many ways a representative argument during the age of Donald Trump, whom Solnit deemed “an openly Confederate president.” In a moment of intense political division and social strife, many critics and commentators find themselves returning to this difficult period in American history in search of precedent.

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