Ta-Nehisi Coates continues his war against anti-smart people. He is, after all, a MacArthur ‘Genius’—they don’t like being called that. Having written National Book Award-winner Between the World and Me and groundbreaking essay ‘The Case for Reparations,’ Coates is now providing the public with a reading list to help them become less stupid re: the American Civil War.
Coates’ area of expertise lies in the history of discrimination against people of color in the United States. The swell of ignorance surrounding watershed moments in civil rights (namely the Civil War) has forced Coates to hand readers his well of knowledge. His thesis is to make people less stupid about this topic. Not smart. Not yet. Just less stupid.
Here are my favorite books on the Civil War that Ta-Nehisi Coates wants you to read (and his comments), but check out the full list on The Atlantic!
Grant by Ron Chernow
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Another classic in the Ron Chernow oeuvre. Again, eminently readable but thick with import. It does not shy away from Grant’s personal flaws, but shows him to be a man constantly struggling to live up to his own standard of personal and moral courage. It corrects nearly a half-century of stupidity inflicted upon America by the Dunning school of historians, which preferred a portrait of Grant as a bumbling, corrupt butcher of men. Finally, it reframes the Civil War away from the overrated Virginia campaigns and shows us that when the West was won, so was the war. Grant hits like a Mack truck of knowledge. Stupid doesn’t stand a chance.
The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
The final of three autobiographies written by the famed abolitionist, and my personal favorite. Epic and sweeping in scope. The chapter depicting the bounty of food on which the enslavers feasted while the enslaved nearly starved is just devastating.
The others are Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson, Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee by Elizabeth Pryor, and Out of the House of Bondage by Thavolia Glymph. If you’ve read any of these, according to Coates, you are less stupid than some of the most important people working in the U.S. government.
Pick up Coates’ most recent book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, here!
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