So much has been written on the complicated and highly charged subject of Reconstruction that it is rare that one work stands out to the extent that this book by Lee Anna Keith on the Colfax Massacre does. From the beginning, Keith argues that, despite the fact that the whites had labeled the fight a riot, it was essentially a massacre that took the lives of 70 to 165 blacks, of which at least 48 were executed several hours after the fight had ended. The author not only measures the human dimension of the bloody events that occurred at the courthouse of Colfax on Easter day, April 13, 1873, but she also reworks old ground to provide seminal insight into how this tragic event was rooted in the social and political conditions prevailing in Grant Parish, Louisiana, after the Civil War.
Vandal lauds Keith's "skill, subtlety, and insight," finding the book "a fine achievement that provides an exciting account of a dramatic event and fills an important gap. This book shows that it is still possible to draw general conclusions on Reconstruction history from the analysis of one single event." Continue reading here.