Here’s one thing Presidents Bush and Obama have in common: both had the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” featured at key points in their presidencies. But how did a song with such clear sectional roots become an “American hymn”? As we commemorate the Civil War, the song’s history sheds light on key aspects of who we are as Americans.
Bruce Levine begins this compelling book with a prologue recounting Edgar Allan Poe’s famous story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” setting up an elaborate metaphor for the demise of antebellum southern society through the unintentional revolution wrought by the Civil War.
A recent episode of PBS’s American Experience explored how the massive number of deaths in the Civil War sent the nation into shock. The catastrophe—750,000 dead—was equivalent to the U.S. suffering 7 million deaths today. Besides evoking this ghastly experience, Ric Burns’s film Death and the Civil War (reviewed here in the New York Times), which is based on Drew Gilpin’s book The Republic of Suffering, offers a fascinating perspective on current political debates over the size and scope of the federal government.
Paul Harvey's introduction to the history of African-American Christianity emphasizes both the
fraught relationship between black and white Christians and the tensions
within black religious institutions and communities.