The Day Freedom Died

The Day Freedom Died

The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction

Book - 2008
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The untold story of the slaying of a Southern town's ex-slaves and a white lawyer's historic battle to bring the perpretators to justice Following the Civil War, Colfax, Louisiana, was a town, like many, where African Americans and whites mingled uneasily. But on April 13, 1873, a small army of white ex-Confederate soldiers, enraged after attempts by freedmen to assert their new rights, killed more than sixty African Americans who had occupied a courthouse. With skill and tenacity, "The Washington Post"'s Charles Lane transforms this nearly forgotten incident into a riveting historical saga.
Seeking justice for the slain, one brave U.S. attorney, James Beckwith, risked his life and career to investigate and punish the perpetrators--but they all went free. What followed was a series of courtroom dramas that culminated at the Supreme Court, where the justices' verdict compromised the victories of the Civil War and left Southern blacks at the mercy of violent whites for generations. "The Day Freedom Died "is an electrifying piece of historical detective work that captures a gallery of characters from presidents to townspeople, and re-creates the bloody days of Reconstruction, when the often brutal struggle for equality moved from the battlefield into communities across the nation.
Publisher: New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2008.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780805083422
Branch Call Number: 976.3 Lane 03/2008
Characteristics: xviii, 326 p., [8] p. of plates :,ill., maps, ;,25 cm.

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Dec 29, 2016

A detailed history of an event that is probably unknown to most Americans. If you think things are bad now, just pray they don't get as bad as they were during reconstruction.

nftaussig Jul 15, 2012

Charles Lane's well-researched account demonstrates how the Colfax massacre and the resulting Supreme Court case U. S. vs. Cruikshank led to the end of Reconstruction and, with it, civil rights protections for blacks in the South. Lane begins by describing in chilling detail the massacre of more than 60 blacks at the courthouse in Colfax, Louisiana on 13 April 1873 (Easter Sunday) by white supremacists bent on retaking power in Grant Parish. He then reviews the political, racial, and legal environment during Reconstruction that led to the conflict, focusing in particular on white supremacist violence in Grant Parish that went unpunished before the massacre. After Lane describes these conditions, he relates the attempt by James Roswell Beckwith, the United States Attorney in New Orleans, to prosecute the perpetrators and why it led to the Cruikshank decision. Lane illustrates how the Cruikshank decision (which never mentioned the more than 60 blacks killed in the massacre) deprived blacks of protection from racially motivated violence and, consequently, resulted in the gradual erosion of their civil rights. LeeAnna Keith's book, the Colfax Massacre, complements this book by delving into the personal dynamics in Grant Parish that played a role in the massacre, but Lane's account gives the reader a better sense of why this event had such dreadful implications for the civil rights of blacks in the South.


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