Oldies but Goodies You Might Have Missed

by Matt McKeon on September 26, 2007 · 0 comments

I’ve read and noted the new titles listed by Brett. However with this post I want to recommend some older titles(in some cases over a century old) you may have missed. They aren’t especially obscure, all have been published and discussed since the 19th century.

“Army Life in a Black Regiment.” Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s account of his service as CO of the First South Carolina Volunteers, one of the first black regiments raised in the war. Higginson’s tone is somewhat self congratulatory, and the reader is advised to read between the lines in this description of a revolutionary development in American history.

“Reminsences of My Life in Camp” by Susie King Taylor. Taylor was a teenage runaway slave who ended up marrying a sergeant in Higginson’s regiment. Her spare account of her life as a teacher and nurse is remarkable for her angry denunciation of Jim Crow. In a visit to Louisiania in the 1890s, she bitterly recounts discrimination she experiences, that black veterans were afraid to wear GAR buttons and asks did we win the war? Or has slavery been replaced with other forms of oppression?(She quotes approvingly a man who says, “Sherman needs to come back here”) Paging Eric Foner! An antidote to the triumphalism of American history and Higginson’s self satisfaction.

A favorite is the better known “Miss Ravenal’s Conversion” an engaging novel written a few years after the war, remarkable for its bluntness about combat, politics, and corruption. Current readers might be interested in its unusual settings in New Orleans, and the inclusion of Union attempts to transforms African Americans from slaves to freedmen(for all the frankly racist prose).

If you have comments on my choices, or want to make suggestions yourself, please do.


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