I Saw Death Coming: A History of Terror and Survival in the War Against Reconstruction

Bloomsbury. Jan. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9781635576634. $30. HIST
U.S. constitutional amendments—the 13th abolishing slavery, the 14th guaranteeing legal protections, and the 15th awarding voting rights—were intended to bring about a new era of freedom for Black Americans. However, the Reconstruction Era in the South remained fraught with danger and legal subversion. Masked Ku Klux Klan members terrorized, attacked, maimed, and murdered Black people with little to no repercussions. The failure to properly enforce laws occurred at the local, state, and federal levels, which left the Black population still subjected to disenfranchisement and effectively barred from achieving basic human rights. Williams (history, Wayne State Univ.; They Left Great Marks on Me) excels at transforming exhaustive research and maps, notes, and an appendix, into an accessible narrative with appeal for a scholarly or general reader. Her ability to trace select families through the decades truly reveals the lasting negative effect of Reconstruction-era terror on those who had hope snatched away. She reveals the seeds of social racism from the past, which sadly remain firmly planted.
VERDICT A recommended heart-wrenching read that provides significant insight into the historical basis of racial conflict in the United States.
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