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Cause: Reconstruction America 1863-1877    by Tonya Bolden order for
by Tonya Bolden
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Thousands of books have been penned about the period before, during, and after the nineteenth century American Civil War. Cause addresses specific years after the War's end, and the Reconstruction faced by a torn-apart nation. Issues to be faced included the reunion of States, the treatment of freed slaves, the course of Native Americans, and women's suffrage. 'I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free' was part of President Abraham Lincoln's 1860 campaign speech. He was shot in 1865.

Those who influenced the cause (for better or worse) included Vice President Andrew Johnson, General Philip Henry Sheridan, General Ulysses T. Grant, and progressive blacks, Abram Colby, and Reverend Jonathan Gibbs. Bills passed and influential organizations (intended to maintain progress but many of which led to chaos and regression instead) include: The Emancipation Proclamation; the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments; the Freedmen's (School) Bureau; the Buffalo Soldiers; and the Colored National Labor Union (CNLU). In 1871, President Grant urged Congress to pass the Ku Klux Klan Act, which made 'terrorism against individuals and institutions acts of rebellion against the federal government'. But the fear of such organizations remained, and neither freedom nor peace materialized.

Bolden writes with the voice of a storyteller, based on extensive research of documented records. Archived black and white sketches, photos, and cartoons show the reality of the War's destruction, 'The Port Royal Experiment' for black people in transition, and their continued struggle for freedom and civil rights. Among the activists for the cause(s) were Amanda Berry Smith, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, Tunis G. Campbell, Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony, co-founder of the American Red Cross Clarissa Harlowe Barton, and a black man known as Gordon, whose photograph shows torture scars, representative of what was one of many conditions of brutality prevalent in the slave communities. (The cliché 'A picture speaks a thousand words' is more than fitting.) Informative sidebars accompany the illustrations.

Award-winning author Tonya Bolden's credits include histories, novels, anthologies, self-help books, articles, reviews and reference material for youmg and old. Bolden is also a teacher and lecturer 'in the process of discovery through the written word'. Though Cause is intended for young adult readers, I recommend it to all ages - historians, librarians, teachers, and parents. This book belongs in all libraries, classrooms, and on private bookshelves as an excellent source of knowledge, and for reference to an era of strife, when rights were fought for, and gained; yet some of the era's biases still linger today.

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