The book as a whole demonstrates several ways to probe the history of memory, to understand how and why groups of Americans have constructed versions of the past in the service of contemporary social needs. Topics range from the writing and thought of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois to a comparison of Abraham Lincoln and Douglass on the level of language and memory. The volume also includes a compelling study of the values of a single Union soldier, an analysis of Ken Burns's PBS series The Civil War, and a retrospective treatment of the distinguished African American historian Nathan I. Huggins.
Taken together, these lucidly written pieces offer a thoroughgoing assessment of the stakes of Civil War memory and their consequences for American race relations. Beyond the Battlefield demonstrates not only why we should preserve and study our Civil War battlefields, but also why we should lift our vision above those landscapes and ponder all the unfinished questions of healing and justice, of racial harmony and disharmony, that still bedevil our society and our historical imagination.