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The Colfax Massacre: The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror and the Death of Reconstruction


The Colfax Massacre: The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror and the Death of Reconstruction Cover

ISBN13: 9780195310269
ISBN10: 0195310268
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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On Easter Sunday, 1873, in the tiny hamlet of Colfax, Louisiana, more than 150 members of an all-black Republican militia, defending the town's courthouse, were slain by an armed force of rampaging white supremacists. The most deadly incident of racial violence of the Reconstruction era, the Colfax Massacre unleashed a reign of terror that all but extinguished the campaign for racial equality.

LeeAnna Keith's The Colfax Massacre is the first full-length book to tell the history of this decisive event. Drawing on a huge body of documents, including eyewitness accounts of the massacre, as well as newly discovered evidence from the site itself, Keith explores the racial tensions that led to the fateful encounter, during which surrendering blacks were mercilessly slaughtered, and the reverberations this message of terror sent throughout the South. Keith also recounts the heroic attempts by U.S. Attorney J.R. Beckwith to bring the killers to justice and the many legal issues raised by the massacre. In 1875, disregarding the poignant testimony of 300 witnesses, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in U.S. v. Cruikshank to overturn a lower court conviction of eight conspirators. This decision virtually nullified the Ku Klux Klan Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871 — which had made federal offenses of a variety of acts to intimidate voters and officeholders — and cleared the way for the Jim Crow era.

If there was a single historical moment that effectively killed Reconstruction and erased the gains blacks had made since the civil war, it was the day of the Colfax Massacre. LeeAnna Keith gives readers both a gripping narrative account of that portentous day and a nuanced historical analysis of its far-reaching repercussions.


"Unbeknownst to most Americans, our nation's history includes homegrown terrorism as well as attacks from abroad. Scholars estimate that during Reconstruction, the turbulent period that followed the Civil War, upwards of 3,000 persons were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan and kindred groups. That's roughly the same number of Americans who have died at the hands of Osama bin Laden.

In... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

About the Author

LeeAnna Keith teaches history at Collegiate School in New York City. Her historical articles have appeared in The Dictionary of American History and The Encyclopedia of American Foreign Relations. She is co-author, with Sandra Fekete, of Companies Are People, Too.

Table of Contents

Introduction: On Bones and Their Markers

Chapter 1: Alabama Fever

Chapter 2: The Philosopher

Chapter 3: The Fall

Chapter 4: Led by a Damned Puppy

Chapter 5: A Town Called Fight

Chapter 6: Carnival of the Animals

Chapter 7: Battle of the Colfax Courthouse

Chapter 8: Voyage of the Ozark

Chapter 9: Getting Away with Murder

Chapter 10: The Legacy of Cruikshank




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napcountry, October 15, 2008 (view all comments by napcountry)
I have not had the privilege of reading this book yet. We have lived in the Colfax area for 14 years. Being in an inter-racial marriage of 20 years we've gotten all sorts of "vibes" from people but in Colfax there is still a definite separation of the races. Whites and blacks are civil to each other but the literal rail road tracks serve as the divider. There are rebel flags still flying to signify the racist mind set of the red neck community. My step father-n-law's family is from Colfax and he's told us many times "it wasn't nice" but never the entire history.
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Product Details

The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror, and the Death of Reconstruction
Keith, Leeanna
null, LeeAnna
Oxford University Press
United States - Reconstruction Period (1865-1877)
Ethnic Studies - African American Studies - Histor
United States - State & Local - South
History, American | Civil War and Reconstruction
United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
Colfax (La.) - Race relations - History -
Grant Parish (La.) - Race relations -
History, American | Civil War
History, American | Civil War & Reconstruction
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
19 halftones, 18 line illustrations
8.66x5.96x.89 in. .93 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » US History » 1800 to 1945
History and Social Science » US History » 1860 to 1920

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