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Beyond Redemption

Race, Violence, and the American South after the Civil War

Beyond Redemption

Race, Violence, and the American South after the Civil War

In the months after the end of the Civil War, there was one word on everyone’s lips: redemption. From the fiery language of Radical Republicans calling for a reconstruction of the former Confederacy to the petitions of those individuals who had worked the land as slaves to the white supremacists who would bring an end to Reconstruction in the late 1870s, this crucial concept informed the ways in which many people—both black and white, northerner and southerner—imagined the transformation of the American South.

Beyond Redemption explores how the violence of a protracted civil war shaped the meaning of freedom and citizenship in the new South. Here, Carole Emberton traces the competing meanings that redemption held for Americans as they tried to come to terms with the war and the changing social landscape. While some imagined redemption from the brutality of slavery and war, others—like the infamous Ku Klux Klan—sought political and racial redemption for their losses through violence. Beyond Redemption merges studies of race and American manhood with an analysis of post-Civil War American politics to offer unconventional and challenging insight into the violence of Reconstruction.

296 pages | 17 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2013

American Beginnings, 1500-1900

History: American History


"[Beyond Redemption] stands as the first book on this subject to attempt a broad understanding of violence’s awful functions rather than seeing it as an aberration of the legitimate political process. . . . Emberton’s study will thus remain an important contribution to the history of Reconstruction and its uninterrupted relevance in our present."

Ohio Valley History

"Beyond Redemption largely succeeds in establishing the importance of redemption in shaping postwar political and social action."

The North Carolina Historical Review

“Beyond Redemption is an important work, particularly noteworthy for providing a new perspective on a historical period with a robust historiography. . . .  a fascinating and challenging study.”

Civil War Monitor

“A deeply researched and ambitious combination of political and cultural history, Beyond Redemption is a powerful and searching exploration of the violent aftermath of the Civil War in the Deep South. Carole Emberton’s dedication to telling individual stories and her discussion of the multiple meanings of the suffering bodies of the freed people puts terror and its markers at the center of Deep South politics in this era. At the same time, her dissection of the evolving relationship of federal and state power in the aftermath of a nationalizing war, and her entry-point to this discussion—collective and individual violence—are original and illuminating. Her assertion that ‘pity and citizenship were incompatible’ provokes an intriguing question that almost no political historian would think to ask.”

Jane Dailey | author of Before Jim Crow: The Politics of Race in Post-Emancipation Virginia

“Carole Emberton has written an imaginative study of the myriad ways in which Americans, black and white, grappled with pain and suffering in the bloody aftermath of the Civil War and sought to create and communicate meaning through acts of violence. Complex and nuanced, Beyond Redemption shows that, during Reconstruction, notions of freedom, citizenship, and the role of government were forged through a public reckoning with this violence and its meanings. It is, in short, an exceptional and exciting history of Reconstruction.”

Amy Louise Wood | Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890–1940

“In this impressive reframing of redemption as a period and a process, Carole Emberton poses important questions about the place of violence in Americans’ social experiences and political imaginations.”

Stephen Kantrowitz | More than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829–1889

“A provocative examination of the inter­sections between violence and citizenship in the decade following the conclusion of the Civil War. . . . Emberton has an excellent eye for revealing anecdotes, and her vivid writing brings a powerful immedi­acy to the book. . . . Her invitation to reconsider Reconstruction through the lens of redemption should spark productive conversations about the past and the present.”

Journal of American History

“Emberton illustrates how the idea of redemption was complex and appropriated more widely than we initially thought. Emberton effectively complicates our understanding of redemption as she uses it not merely as an end point for the Reconstruction period, but as an idea present and acted upon throughout the entire era and beyond.”

American Studies

“Emberton examines the language of ‘redemption,’ a term that was used both to atone for the sins of slavery as well as to resist the empowerment of ex-slaves. Emberton’s look at this dichotomy sheds light on the true difficulty in freeing the slaves. . . . Beyond Redemption is an erudite examination of the end of the Civil War, appropriately categorizing it as a bloody, brutal roadblock in the long road to equality.”

Journal of American Culture

"Beyond Redemption poses interesting questions that will help guide how historians reinterpret the Civil War era for a new generation.

Andrew L. Slap, East Tennessee State University | Journal of Southern History

Table of Contents

1 Reconstruction as Redemption
2 The Politics of Suffering
3 Wounds and Scars
4 The Militarization of Freedom
5 Ballots and Bullets
6 The Violent Bear It Away




Southern Association for Women Historian: Willie Lee Rose Publication Prize

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