I Saw Death Coming: A History of Terror and Survival in the War Against Reconstruction

Longlist, National Book Awards 2023 for Nonfiction

ISBN 9781635576634
Bloomsbury Publishing
Author photo of Kidada E. Williams. (Photo credit: Navy B. Rae)
Kidada E. Williams

Kidada E. Williams is an Associate Professor of History at Wayne State University. She is the author of They Left Great Marks on Me: African American Testimonies of Racial Violence from Emancipation to World War I, co-author of Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence, and creator of the podcast Seizing Freedom. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

The story of Reconstruction is often told from the perspective of the politicians, generals, and journalists whose accounts claim an outsized place in collective memory. But this pivotal era looked very different to African Americans in the South transitioning from bondage to freedom after 1865. They were besieged by a campaign of white supremacist violence that persisted through the 1880s and beyond. For too long, their lived experiences have been sidelined, impoverishing our understanding of the obstacles post-Civil War Black families faced, their inspiring determination to survive, and the physical and emotional scars they bore because of it.

In I Saw Death Coming, Kidada E. Williams offers a breakthrough account of the much-debated Reconstruction period, transporting readers into the daily existence of formerly enslaved people building hope-filled new lives. Drawing on overlooked sources and bold new readings of the archives, Williams offers a revelatory and, in some cases, minute-by-minute record of nighttime raids and Ku Klux Klan strikes. And she deploys cutting-edge scholarship on trauma to consider how the effects of these attacks would linger for decades—indeed, generations—to come.

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