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“Red River ”

Written on: 24/12/2006 by Harriet Klausner (18637 reviews written)

Red River

Lalita Tademy

Warner, January 2007, $24.95

ISBN: 0446578983

The 1872 elections are historical, as the freed slaves of Bottom, Louisiana vote for the first time. The African-Americans overwhelmingly support the republican candidate for sheriff, while the nearby white residents of Colfax go democrat.

In 1873, the white candidate Shaw claims he is the sheriff, but the larger black population disagrees; his opponents stage a sit in at the town courthouse, while praying the military intercedes as promised by Congress. Two of the sit-in members, Israel Smith and Sam Tademy worry about the safety of their wives and children, who without them suffer hardships. Meanwhile, still hurting from the war and the turn over of their lifestyle, whites become outraged over the court house occupation. In April, racial war breaks out, as a massacre of the black male population of Colfax occurs by a white militia. Sam leads the evacuation of the women and children from the town. Almost ten years later, Israel's son Noby and Sam's son Jackson, and future generations of both families struggle with a belief to never forget the Colfax Massacre.

Following up the superb CANE RIVER family drama, Lalita Tademy provides further insight into the history of her ancestors, this time during the Reconstruction Era, with the entire focus being on the prelude to the massacre, the horror of the carnage, and the after effect of the slaughter. The first part of the novel is historical fiction at its best, as Ms. Tademy provides a powerful insight into a dark moment of American history. Part Two is not quite as exciting, as this "After" segment is drier, as twentieth century family members try not to forget the Colfax Massacre. Still, in spite of Part Two being more a historical review rather than the entertaining dramatization of the Part One "Before", readers will appreciate RED RIVER as a strong look at the bloodiest event of the Reconstruction Era.

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