Tag Archives: Civil War

Book Review:

Smith, Page, “Trial By Fire. A People’s History of the Civil War and Reconstruction.” McGraw-Hill, NY, 1982. 995 pgs

Lincoln quote on labor

This is Volume 5 of Page’s series on history of America. There are a lot of facts in the book, but factual reporting is not his method. Mostly, he compiles diary entries from people on both sides of the period. He tries, that way, to reflect what people were thinking as the years passed.

It is particularly effective when we try to un-puzzle what happened during Reconstruction. Did it succeed or did it fail? Should they have even tried or would it be better to have left the Southerners to do what they wanted? Who were the good guys and who were the bad? What difference did it make at the time?

Nothing is clear-cut in political history. It’s all a matter of point of view and opinion. Reconstruction may have been a good idea at the end of the Civil War, but a lot of people were against it. As time wore on, fewer and fewer people in the North really cared. The Southerners were adamant, and they thought they could re-assert the same relationships they had before the war.

One reason that Southerners were so optimistic about re-asserting racist relationships is because President Johnson had 3 years to re-instate them after Lincoln’s death. If there’s a bad guy, I mean a really awful bad guy, it was Johnson.

If there’s a good guy, a really good guy, it was President Grant. When he assumed the presidency in 1868, he made a genuine effort to protect African American people and give them a chance to thrive. When his second term ran out, reconstruction was over. The Republicans just gave it up. The strongest of them were the abolitionists, who had pretty well died out by 1876.

Page’s account of Reconstruction is the bloodiest I have seen. Black people were murdered and raped all over the South all through the decades following the war. Some died fighting, but most of them were simply murdered. There were large massacres and small massacres, but the Southerners eventually prevailed and civil rights went from a hopeful era to very dark times that persist today.

—Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. We podcast it, and “Workers Beat Extra,” on Soundcloud. If you are curious as to what I really think, check out my personal web site

Last week, Republicans in the Texas House voted against local control because it is hateful and noxious. This week, they voted for it because it is beautiful and sacred.


This has been going on since the Civil War, but it has nothing to do with “local control,” “states rights,” or “overreaching federal government.” It has to do with class.

Issues? What Issues?

The issue last week was whether or not cities have the right to adopt their own ordinances, specifically those concerning enforcement of immigration laws. The State House ruled that cities have no such right, and they, the State House, can overrule the cities any time they want to. To heck with “local control!”

Texans probably knew this was coming, because the State House in the last session, ruled that the City of Denton had no right to restrict oil companies from drilling and fracking right in the middle of town if they want to. To heck with “local control!”

But in the racist South, especially in racist Texas, “States Rights” is the Holy Quest. The Texas House voted to become the 11th state to demand the right to re-write the U.S. Constitution and enshrine “states rights” into it. It’s a lot like, in fact it’s exactly like, the same argument before the Civil War.

What Really Matters

Big money matters to the Republicans in the Texas House. Those who are buying them body and soul want racist immigration policies and they want to undermine federal protections for minorities and other poor people. They’ll use any smokescreens they can think of, but it’s the big money that matters.

–Gene Lantz

On Saturdays at 9AM Central Time, I’m on 89.3FM in Dallas and everywhere.


Don’t let the dry lifeless movie critics talk you out of seeing this wonderful film!


Movie review: “Free State of Jones,” Directed by Gary Ross, 139 minutes

Movies, books, statues, and historical markers all over the country romanticize the Confederacy. The truth is that it was a nasty war fought for nasty reasons. Here and there, southern people resisted the confederacy to the point of armed struggle. It’s incredible but true, though, that local farmers, deserters, and runaway slaves combined to win military victories against Confederate soldiers around Jones County, Mississippi

I read the book some time ago and was really looking forward to this movie. If there was anything at all disappointing, it’s because the film followed the book a bit too closely. The facts for the book were mostly taken from a miscegenation trial in the 1930s involving one of the many descendants of guerrilla leader Newton Knight and his runaway slave wife, Rachel. The people’s uprising in Jones County is the best part of the story, but the book and movie add on a lot of the dismal history of Mississippi afterward.

BTW, the state just closed the case of the murder of civil rights martyrs Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner; so ugly history marches on in Mississippi. We just noted the anniversary of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court, and it’s extremely relevant to this film.

Movies like the blockbuster success “Gone With the Wind,” are ordinarily more than happy to lie about what really happened. This one doesn’t. Go see it!

Movie review: “Genius,” Directed by Michael Grandage. 104 minutes

People who like a little action and a lot less talking in their movies aren’t going to like “Genius,” but I cried through part of it and thought it was really worthwhile. Fans of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and, especially, Thomas Wolfe, are already aware that their editor, Maxwell Perkins, is given a lot of credit for their books’ successes. This is about Perkins and Wolfe, and it’s almost 100% dialogue.

The movie critics don’t like this one either, because the two men are more or less reduced to stereotypes, or so they say. I say that trying to explain Perkins and Wolfe would be a difficult assignment, but one worth doing. I’d be curious to know if other film makers could have done it better.

If you don’t know or care about Maxwell Perkins or Thomas Wolfe, you wouldn’t like this movie. If you do, though, it’s a fine film.

Movie review: “The Neon Demon,” Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Not sure of length.

If someone is just dying to see Elle Fanning in her skivvies, they might want to see this movie about innocence and high fashion. Oh yes, there’s one really nice shot of a mountain lion. As the wide-eyed protagonist meets savage fashionistas, one begins to realize that something truly terrible is going to happen at the ending. But is it worth sitting through long, boring, unrelated technical movie tricks to get to it?

The only real crime that will cause me to walk out of a movie is that it’s boring. This one is.

–Gene Lantz

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