Thursday, November 14, 2013

What is Stephen V. Ash reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Stephen V. Ash, author of A Massacre in Memphis: The Race Riot That Shook the Nation One Year After the Civil War.

His entry begins:
Although I’m a historian, when I read for pleasure I’m more likely to pick up a novel than a work of history; and when I do pick up a work of history, it’s usually not one in my field (American Civil War and Reconstruction).

The most interesting book I’ve read lately, which caught my eye as I was roaming the aisles of a used-book store, is neither fiction nor history. It’s a work of journalism published more than half a century ago: Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.

In 1959, as the Civil Rights crisis roiled the South, Griffin--a white magazine reporter--conceived the daring idea of...[read on]
About A Massacre in Memphis, from the publisher:
An unprecedented account of one of the bloodiest and most significant racial clashes in American history

In May 1866, just a year after the Civil War ended, Memphis erupted in a three-day spasm of racial violence that saw whites rampage through the city’s black neighborhoods. By the time the fires consuming black churches and schools were put out, forty-six freed people had been murdered. Congress, furious at this and other evidence of white resistance in the conquered South, launched what is now called Radical Reconstruction, policies to ensure the freedom of the region’s four million blacks—and one of the most remarkable experiments in American history.

Stephen V. Ash’s A Massacre in Memphis is a portrait of a Southern city that opens an entirely new view onto the Civil War and its aftermath. A momentous national event, the riot is also remarkable for being “one of the best-documented episodes of the American nineteenth century.” Yet Ash is the first to mine the sources available to full effect. Bringing postwar Memphis to vivid life, he takes us among newly arrived Yankees, former Rebels, boisterous Irish immigrants, and striving freed people, and shows how Americans of the period worked, prayed, expressed their politics, and imagined the future. And how they died: Ash’s harrowing and profoundly moving present-tense narration of the riot has the immediacy of the best journalism.

Told with nuance, grace, and a quiet moral passion, A Massacre in Memphis is Civil War–era history like no other.
Stephen V. Ash is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Tennessee. He is the author of Firebrand of Liberty, A Year in the South, and other books on the Civil War era.

The Page 99 Test: Firebrand of Liberty.

Writers Read: Stephen V. Ash.

--Marshal Zeringue