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Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacreby Heather Cox Richardson
Synopses & Reviews
On December 29, 1890, American troops opened fire with howitzers on hundreds of unarmed Lakota Sioux men, women, and children near Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota, killing nearly 300 Sioux. As acclaimed historian Heather Cox Richardson shows in Wounded Knee, the massacre grew out of a set of political forces all too familiar to us today: fierce partisanship, heated political rhetoric, and an irresponsible, profit-driven media.
Richardson tells a dramatically new story about the Wounded Knee massacre, revealing that its origins lay not in the West but in the corridors of political power back East. Politicians in Washington, Democrat and Republican alike, sought to set the stage for mass murder by exploiting an age-old political tool — fear.
Assiduously researched and beautifully written, Wounded Knee will be the definitive account of an epochal American tragedy.
"Historian Richardson (West from Appomattox) brings a fresh perspective to the massacre at Wounded Knee in her engaging study. The U.S. Army slaughter of nearly 300 surrendering Sioux men and women was not just an appalling act of racist brutality, argues the author, it was the outcome of roiling partisan politics. Desperate to maintain their political majority as well as business-friendly tariffs, Republican lawmakers swept into the West, gaining new congressional seats and distributing patronage jobs to supporters, including posts on the newly formed Sioux reservations. Stripped of land, livelihood, and dignity, many Sioux turned to a religious movement called the Ghost Dance — misinterpreted by Republican appointees as a sign of impending insurgency. Their panic was fanned by a feckless media and the Republican political machine hungry to see its vision — a West transformed into thriving farms humming with commerce — fulfilled. Richardson describes the collision of incompetence, political posturing, and military might with elegant prose and the right blend of outrage and humanity, subtly highlighting the parallels between the disastrous partisanship of the late 19th century and the politics of today. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Richardson (History, University of Massachusetts-Amherst) takes a new look at the tragic 1890 massacre of Lakota Sioux by U.S. soldiers at Wounded Knee. Posing the question of why President Harrison sent the army to South Dakota to put down an "uprising" that threatened neither person nor property, the author argues that politics in the bitterly divided United States were the real reason for the presence of so many soldiers. Telling a story in which extremist rhetoric and yellow journalism were used to whip up fear of an Indian rising, all as cover for partisan political maneuvering aimed at ensuring that Republicans won the 1890 midterm elections and, hopefully, re-elected President Harrison in 1892. Groundbreaking in its scope, this exceedingly interesting and well-written book is an important contribution to scholarship on Native American history and this history of the late-19th century U.S. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
An acclaimed historian uncovers the story behind the massacre at Wounded Knee, demonstrating how party politics in Washington, D.C. made the South Dakota catastrophe inevitable
On December 29, 1890, five hundred American troops massed around hundreds of unarmed Lakota Sioux men, women, and children near Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. Outnumbered and demoralized, the Sioux posed no threat to the soldiers and put up no resistance. But in a chaotic scene, the Americans opened fire with howitzers, killing nearly three hundred Sioux in what would become known as the Wounded Knee Massacre. In this definitive account, acclaimed historian Heather Cox Richardson shows that the origins of this quintessential American tragedy lay not in the West but in Washington, where would-be lawmakers, locked in a desperate midterm-election battle, sought to drum up votes through an age-old political tool: fear.
About the Author
Heather Cox Richardson is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of West from Appomattox; The Greatest Nation of the Earth; and The Death of Reconstruction. She lives in Winchester, Massachusetts.
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