The Day Freedom Died

by Charles Lane

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Charles Lane is a journalist/editor for the Washington Post and was an editor for New Republic magazine and is not free of some controversy, some of which is alluded to in the 2003 movie Shattered Glass by director Billy Ray. For nine years, Lane covered the Supreme Court for the Post. From this background, he has written the story of the loss of freedom in Louisiana and throughout the South pursuant to Supreme Court case decision Cruikshank v. United States (1876).

The genre of The Day Freedom Died is investigative nonfictionalized history. This was Lane's 2008 debut book and was followed in 2010 by another investigative nonfictionalized history examining the decline in occurrence of the death penalty being executed in the United States, Stay of Execution: Saving the Death Penalty from Itself, in which he presents some controversial views. Lane does not shy away from embracing the controversy that comes from the conclusions of his investigations. The Day Freedom Died stands fairly well alone among other investigative historical accounts.

Lane is thorough and detailed in his approach to historic investigation and writes with an energetic and engaging voice that easily generates interest in "tough" academic topics. His energy is lessened in Stay of Execution though still a hallmark of his style. The Day Freedom Died aims to address the question "Why did the Reconstruction fail?" and begins with an examination of the 1873 massacre in Colfax, Louisiana, that led to the 1876 Supreme Court case pitting Cruikshank against the United States, which led to "the betrayal of the Reconstruction." This is a book very very worth reading.

A cloudy day was fading into darkness as the steamboat Southwestern approached the eastern bank of the Red River on April 13, 1873--Easter Sunday. (Opening lines, Chapter One: "Wholesale Murder")

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