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The Colfax Massacre

Book Digest When I was in public school, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Rosewood, 20th-century lynchings, American concentration camps, and numerous other dark and ugly episodes in American history were ignored or glossed over. Upon more serious study, this disconcerting series of revelations casts a long and heavy shadow over the concept of patriotism and the questionable basis of American exceptionalism. In the Colfax (Louisiana) massacre of 1873, 150 members of an all-black Republican militia were killed by rioting white supremacists, many slaughtered as they tried to surrender. Eight killers were convicted, a conviction overturned by the Supreme Court in 1875 in U.S. v. Cruikshank. This race riot is seen as the end of post-Reconstruction efforts toward racial equality and the court case effectively neutered the Ku Klux Klan Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871 and ushered in Jim Crow. Leeanna Keith’s book is the first to deal with this crucial but little-acknowledged event.
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