This War Ain't Over: Fighting the Civil War in New Deal by Nina Silber

RobertP

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It seems to me that the dominant theme of the 1930’s was the Great Depression and not the Civil War. At least in my family and their contemporaries the “memory” was how to feed one’s family and make ends meet in desperate times. Think The Waltons TV show which my mother said reminded her so much of her youth. These people came out of that era with a hardened sense of frugality and strength; and it conditioned an entire generation for the rest of their lives. They certainly had much more to worry about than a long past war and had moved on.
 

Pat Young

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It seems to me that the dominant theme of the 1930’s was the Great Depression and not the Civil War. At least in my family and their contemporaries the “memory” was how to feed one’s family and make ends meet in desperate times. Think The Waltons TV show which my mother said reminded her so much of her youth. These people came out of that era with a hardened sense of frugality and strength; and it conditioned an entire generation for the rest of their lives. They certainly had much more to worry about than a long past war and had moved on.
Hitler and Stalin too!
 

Pat Young

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From the review in the Civil War Monitor:

Drawing on a wide range of sources, both cultural and political, This War Ain’t Over is flush with interesting and compelling evidence. Readers of Silber’s earlier work, The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865–1900, will recall her skill in literary analysis; This War Ain’t Over allows her to demonstrate her skill in film analysis as well. Naturally, the 1939 film adaptation of Gone with the Wind looms large in this volume. Silber uses the Gone with the Wind to reflect on the cultural traction the Lost Cause still enjoyed, even if modern audiences had stripped it of some of its romanticism and sentimentality. Silber finds, however, that the film’s popularity was rooted in more than the Lost Cause itself. Conservatives, for example, saw in Gone with the Wind and its depiction of Reconstruction a warning of how the New Deal might expand federal power and still fail to relieve the suffering of white Southerners. At the same time, however, Gone with the Wind emphasized the virtue of resiliency in the face of adversity which many Americans, not only Southerners, celebrated in this era.

It is hard to do justice to the highly nuanced argument and extensive research contained within this relatively compact work. Taken as a whole, This War Ain’t Over reveals that Civil War memory is complex, defying neat regional, racial, and political categorization. Even within Gone with the Wind, a film normally treated as emblematic of the Lost Cause, Silber finds conflicting narratives. In so doing, she demonstrates that as influential as the Lost Cause has been, it was also never as monolithic or intractable as scholars might have supposed. By highlighting the tensions within Civil War memory, Silber offers important insight into how interpretations of the past are shaped by contemporary issues and reminds her readers that, long before “Unite the Right,” Civil War memory served political purposes.
 

Pat Young

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From Jacobin:

Fortunately, the history of Reconstruction furnishes plenty of relevant examples of African Americans and white Americans working together for common cause. Instead of celebrating the Lost Cause and Robert E. Lee, we can emphasize James Longstreet’s post–Civil War loyalty to the Republican Party, and his leading of African-American troops against the White League at the 1874 Battle of Liberty Place. Instead of statues to Wade Hampton III in South Carolina, we can hail the example of Congressman Robert Elliot, an African American who led the fight for the 1875 Civil Rights Act. History shows us, time and again, the value of solidarity in political, social, and cultural movements.
 
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