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“We can no longer see ourselves as minor spectators or weary watchers of history a­fter finishing this astonishing work of nonfiction.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy In Down Along with That Devil’s Bones, journalist Connor Towne O’Neill takes a deep dive into American history, exposing the still-raging battles over monuments dedicated to one of the most notorious Confedera “We can no longer see ourselves as minor spectators or weary watchers of history a­fter finishing this astonishing work of nonfiction.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy In Down Along with That Devil’s Bones, journalist Connor Towne O’Neill takes a deep dive into American history, exposing the still-raging battles over monuments dedicated to one of the most notorious Confederate generals, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Through the lens of these conflicts, O’Neill examines the legacy of white supremacy in America, in a sobering and fascinating work. When O’Neill first moved to Alabama, as a white Northerner, he felt somewhat removed from the racism Confederate monuments represented. Then one day in Selma, he stumbled across a group of citizens protecting a monument to Forrest, the officer who became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. O’Neill sets off to visit other disputed memorials to Forrest across the South, talking with men and women who believe they are protecting their heritage, and those who have a different view of the man’s poisonous history. O’Neill’s reporting and thoughtful, deeply personal analysis make it clear that white supremacy is not a regional affliction but is in fact coded into the DNA of the entire country. Down Along with That Devil’s Bones presents an important and eye-opening account of how we got from Appomattox to Charlottesville, and where, if we can truly understand and transcend our past, we could be headed next.


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“We can no longer see ourselves as minor spectators or weary watchers of history a­fter finishing this astonishing work of nonfiction.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy In Down Along with That Devil’s Bones, journalist Connor Towne O’Neill takes a deep dive into American history, exposing the still-raging battles over monuments dedicated to one of the most notorious Confedera “We can no longer see ourselves as minor spectators or weary watchers of history a­fter finishing this astonishing work of nonfiction.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy In Down Along with That Devil’s Bones, journalist Connor Towne O’Neill takes a deep dive into American history, exposing the still-raging battles over monuments dedicated to one of the most notorious Confederate generals, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Through the lens of these conflicts, O’Neill examines the legacy of white supremacy in America, in a sobering and fascinating work. When O’Neill first moved to Alabama, as a white Northerner, he felt somewhat removed from the racism Confederate monuments represented. Then one day in Selma, he stumbled across a group of citizens protecting a monument to Forrest, the officer who became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. O’Neill sets off to visit other disputed memorials to Forrest across the South, talking with men and women who believe they are protecting their heritage, and those who have a different view of the man’s poisonous history. O’Neill’s reporting and thoughtful, deeply personal analysis make it clear that white supremacy is not a regional affliction but is in fact coded into the DNA of the entire country. Down Along with That Devil’s Bones presents an important and eye-opening account of how we got from Appomattox to Charlottesville, and where, if we can truly understand and transcend our past, we could be headed next.

30 review for Down Along with That Devil's Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Raymond

    Down Along With That Devil’s Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy by Connor O’Neill is a book about the Confederate General and first Grand Wizard of the KKK Nathan Bedford Forrest, the monuments that honor him, and one white man’s journey to reckon with the legacy of the Confederacy and White Supremacy. O’Neill has written an amazing book that weaves the biography of Forrest and his impact on the present day very nicely. The book specifically focuses on t Down Along With That Devil’s Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy by Connor O’Neill is a book about the Confederate General and first Grand Wizard of the KKK Nathan Bedford Forrest, the monuments that honor him, and one white man’s journey to reckon with the legacy of the Confederacy and White Supremacy. O’Neill has written an amazing book that weaves the biography of Forrest and his impact on the present day very nicely. The book specifically focuses on the campaigns to remove Forrest monuments in four cities: Selma, AL; Murfreesboro, TN; Nashville, TN; and Memphis, TN. O’Neill does a phenomenal job providing the views of supporters and opponents of the removal of the monuments in all four cities. As can be expected some of the four stories end with these structures coming down while others remain standing to this day. O’Neill does a great job in this book showing that the erection of these monuments were more about responding to racial tensions than they were to actually commemorate Southern/Confederate heritage. A recent Southern Poverty Law Center study bears this out using data. As you read this book you will learn that Confederate monuments were used as “palliatives” for Americans to console themselves of the racial changes that were happening in the country at the time of Civil Rights movement and the end of Jim Crow. Near the end of this book O’Neill leaves us with the important question about what happens after the monuments comes down. Readers will learn that bringing down the monument is the easy part, tearing down the “thought monuments” and other structural forces is the hard task that remains. Readers of history and race relations will enjoy this fascinating work. Thanks to NetGalley, Algonquin Books, and Connor O’Neill for a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on September 29, 2020. Review first published in Ballasts for the Mind: https://medium.com/ballasts-for-the-m...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    In 2015, the author became interested in Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest when he stumbled upon one of his monuments in Selma’s Old Live Oak Cemetery. It happened to be the 50th anniversary of the march over Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, where hundreds of black demonstrators were assaulted by Alabama police. The former statue had been stolen, and the Friends of Forrest were preparing to erect a replacement in Confederate Memorial Circle. I was unfamiliar with Forrest, but apparently th In 2015, the author became interested in Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest when he stumbled upon one of his monuments in Selma’s Old Live Oak Cemetery. It happened to be the 50th anniversary of the march over Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, where hundreds of black demonstrators were assaulted by Alabama police. The former statue had been stolen, and the Friends of Forrest were preparing to erect a replacement in Confederate Memorial Circle. I was unfamiliar with Forrest, but apparently this general, slave trader and KKK grand wizard is much beloved all over the south and he has many monuments. The author chose to focus on only four if them. He used the “Forrest monuments as a lens to look at race, memory, and the legacy of the war”. People who still disingenuously claim that these monuments honor heritage rather than racism need to look at the timing of the erection of these monuments. It didn’t happen at the end of the Civil War, but rather it happened during moments of racial tension. In Memphis, a statue was erected as the city imposed Jim Crow laws. In Murphreesboro, a university building was named after him at the height of the civil rights movement. In Nashville, a statue was raised by a white supremacist as backlash to multiculturalism. Selma chose to honor him right after the first black mayor was elected. The book also briefly covers Forrest’s life, including his pre-war slave trading, war exploits, post-war role with the KKK and his veneration as a symbol of white male superiority. While the book is very well written and illuminating, and there are a few hopeful moments, mostly it is a story of depressing and frightening ugliness that seems to be impossible to stamp out. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mari

    This was a bit of a mixed bag reading experience. At first, I wasn't sure what exactly the book was getting at, as it started highly biographical-- something I wasn't looking for. As we proceed, however, O'Neill starts looking grounding the historical context in the current pushes to remove confederacy monuments. At the end, he also really brings it home in terms of the ideas of how these monuments aren't just history divorced from their racist origins. He talks about the fractured way Americans This was a bit of a mixed bag reading experience. At first, I wasn't sure what exactly the book was getting at, as it started highly biographical-- something I wasn't looking for. As we proceed, however, O'Neill starts looking grounding the historical context in the current pushes to remove confederacy monuments. At the end, he also really brings it home in terms of the ideas of how these monuments aren't just history divorced from their racist origins. He talks about the fractured way Americans view our own history and highlights this by speaking to defenders of monuments and those who are not only fighting symbols but systems. That said, the presentation wasn't very uniform. It didn't always flow well and you ended up with chapters that were much drier than others. This is also framed with O'Neil, a white man, wrestling with this history. Anyone who has ever experience racism as a non-white person will find this a difficult perspective to access.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carolien

    As a South African, I have watched us deal with monuments and statues to apartheid prime ministers and colonialists over the past three decades. Initially the focus was on renaming streets and removing some of the most egregious statues. Some remained and became the focus of student protests in 2015 at which stage the remaining ones were mostly moved into storage, private collections or into museums accompanied by similar discussions on the preservation of history versus human dignity as recount As a South African, I have watched us deal with monuments and statues to apartheid prime ministers and colonialists over the past three decades. Initially the focus was on renaming streets and removing some of the most egregious statues. Some remained and became the focus of student protests in 2015 at which stage the remaining ones were mostly moved into storage, private collections or into museums accompanied by similar discussions on the preservation of history versus human dignity as recounted in this book. It's an ongoing process - my mother's former high school named after the late architect of apartheid, H.F Verwoerd, renamed itself quietly last year. So it was the context to the protests we have seen unfold from afar that made this a fascinating read. The arguments for and against are familiar, but my knowledge of the US Civil War and the subsequent politics of segregation limited. Key concepts and events were referenced succinctly and the format of focusing on four specific monuments which represented these worked well. The author does not shy away from self-reflection which is required from all of us as we contemplate the events which these monuments represent and the actions needed to move forward. Highly recommend this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    The controversy over confederate statues and monuments needs to be addressed. Connor O’Neill was in all the right places at the right times to reveal the depths and depravity of the movements to preserve and promote them. He has written a book, Down Along With That Devil’s Bones, to document his recent travels, research and interviews. It is as ugly as you would expect, and less than it could be. He picks Nathan Bedford Forrest, a name little known outside the southern United States, as his poste The controversy over confederate statues and monuments needs to be addressed. Connor O’Neill was in all the right places at the right times to reveal the depths and depravity of the movements to preserve and promote them. He has written a book, Down Along With That Devil’s Bones, to document his recent travels, research and interviews. It is as ugly as you would expect, and less than it could be. He picks Nathan Bedford Forrest, a name little known outside the southern United States, as his poster child. There are statues, monuments, halls and schools named after him all over the southern states. This estimable gentleman of the south, worthy of everyone’s respect and idolatry, was a slave auctioneer and Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, restoring white supremacy to several southern states after the south lost the civil war. That anyone would want to remove his monuments is something for all good citizens to rise up and fight against. O’Neill visited Charlottesville for the battle over monuments, where one supporter drove his car though a crowd of protestors, killing a woman. He visited Selma, always the epicenter of controversy, Nashville, Memphis, Montgomery and more. Their links to slavery and the civil war are all noted. He asked people for their thoughts, dug into history and followed the removal of statues, often in the dead of night. It’s all very descriptive, with lots of mood setting and color. And minimal impact. What he found should come as no surprise. Southerners are apologists for their flawed heroes. They willfully ignore the slave ownership, the beatings , the lynchings and the exhortations to slavery as highly ethical Christian living. Instead, they cite heroics in battle, or success in business – without mentioning the business was slave auctioning or that the battles were actually lost. For whites, the old south way of life has become The Lost Cause, worthy of pity rather than criticism. O’Neill calls it all magical thinking, which also absolves white supremacists of the nastiness of their lives. They love to cite the heritage they want to honor, without the hate it specifies. Magical thinking honors the fighting but not the reason for the fighting, O’Neill says. White supremacy rests entirely on magical thinking. Down south, the statues, monuments and flags are a ”palliative” to the white victims of the loss of the civil war. Their civil war statues always face north, i.e. never retreating. Entire universities gather in football stadiums to wave their rebel flags and hoot and holler like the victors they were not. It is (and is meant to be) a very intimidating sight, especially for black students. Weekly, throughout the fall months, every year. Blessed by the administration as good clean fun. Inspiring future generations of white supremacists. Nathan Forrest was a self-made man. He came from the dirt poor, learned to buy and sell, and found slaves the best commodity to move. His Negro Mart, situated right between his home and the Calvary Church (still standing) on Adams St. in Memphis, saw over a thousand slaves sold every year, providing Forrest with profits of $50,000 (one million in today’s dollars) every year. He stored them there, beat them bloody and sold them off, either in auctions or to passing shoppers. He bought farms and plantations to be worked by the slaves he was unable to sell at his standard 20% markup, so the overall profits remained stellar. He was rich enough to fund his own regiment when the civil war broke out, and led it to several victories, as well as numerous defeats, for all of which he earned great praise – and the rank of lieutenant general in the confederate army. He was famous for slaughtering northern soldiers after the battle was already won, and making the rivers run red with their blood. When the war ended, the prospect of racial equality led him to join the emerging KKK, which soon made him its leader. This allowed Forrest to command all kinds of troops again, this time committing all kinds of murder, arson, threats and intimidation in order to prevent blacks from assuming any kind of role in society. Instead, the KKK placed whites back in control like they had always been, infiltrating the police, the courts and civic institutions to ensure enforcement. When he had “redeemed” six states for white supremacy, he finally took his retirement, and catching dysentery, died at the age of 55, a hero for his exemplary life. O’Neill says the rebel flag was uncommon until the 1940s, when overt racists like Strom Thurmond stirred white supremacist feelings. With constant setbacks at the hands of FDR, Truman and Johnson, the confederate flag took on new symbolism and became ubiquitous. But to be honest, it was never really absent. It was baked into state flags, for example. Thurmond’s Dixiecrat rebellion made no bones about white supremacy. For them, desegregation was the crisis. They were there because blacks were there. It was a clue the civil war had not been carried to its full conclusion. O’Neill is white, and feels guilt and shame. He ends his book at a slave memorial, suitably revolting in his description. But the book left me totally unsatisfied. There are two giant factors obviously missing from it. I find it astonishing he could write this book without them, since he tries to be so thorough and fair in his descriptions and in his questioning of his subjects: 1.Ancient history shows us that the way to assimilate a conquered people is to destroy their statues. With their gods and heroes gone, they must gravitate to accepting the conquerors’ values, heroes and gods. Hundreds, if not thousands of gods have disappeared this way. (HL Mencken once tried to list them all. It was impressive.) By allowing the losing South to build new statues and monuments to their own, and through allowing them to promote the confederate flag, the United States utterly failed to acknowledge the history of the world, and is suffering that failure even today. There is no excuse for permitting white southerners to build legends around failed rebels. Nowhere else will you see monuments to the losers. Nowhere else do they glorify criminal ideology. The whole idea is to vanquish the failed ideology, not let it fester and thrive again. That’s what the war was about. The USA never bothered to finish the civil war. Just like in Afghanistan and Iraq, it lost interest in finishing the job and reintegrating the country as something cohesive. 2. History also shows that the conquerors won the wars when they seized the flag of the vanquished. They then banned it, never to fly again. In any war, the flag will change when it is reissued. The old flag is a symbol of the defeated regime and has no right to appear ever again. To fly the rebel flag and build memorials to defeated secessionists is what is called treason in the United States, as it is in the rest of the world. Governments cannot and must not tolerate it, if only to keep the country as one. The business of it being history and that all history must be preserved is bogus, a canard for racism. Treason outranks history. Flying the confederate flag should be punishable by long prison terms. I wanted O’Neill to challenge all the people he met and interviewed with the fact they were committing treason against the USA. Palliatives for whites is a trivial apology and a pathetic answer. Rewriting history to avoid the mention of slavery is intellectually dishonest. But honoring and glorifying a defeated enemy of the state is treason. Their disloyalty to the USA is not merely disgusting; it is a national security threat. What would they have all said to that? We’ll never know. David Wineberg

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Thank you to @Libro.FM for an ALC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. This is a history of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a grand master of the KKK and a Confederate General. Through this story, O'Neill dives into history as well as more current events: the debate over the removal of Confederate statues and monuments. While this was quite an interesting facet of US history, I felt weird that a white man was writing/reading this to me. As a history and journalism piece, this was gr Thank you to @Libro.FM for an ALC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. This is a history of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a grand master of the KKK and a Confederate General. Through this story, O'Neill dives into history as well as more current events: the debate over the removal of Confederate statues and monuments. While this was quite an interesting facet of US history, I felt weird that a white man was writing/reading this to me. As a history and journalism piece, this was great: very informative and about a topic that needs to be talked about. But considering everything that's come out about centering whiteness, was O'Neill the right person to write this book? I don't know, but my gut is more in the camp of no. There are several times O'Neill adds in personal opinions which was very interesting. I don't know if it added anything to this book, because the extremely racist people who need to hear these musings and awakenings would never read a book like this.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paperclippe

    I annotated and highlighted so many things while reading this. I have so much to say, and no idea how to say it - but that's okay, because O'Neill says it so well. Okay. Stepping back. Down Along with That Devil's Bones does what it says on the tin: by using monuments of Nathan Bedford Forrest - Confederate war monger, slave trader, and leader of the KKK - and people's relationships to them, the book asks us - specifically, asks white people - to reckon with the fact that that history is our hist I annotated and highlighted so many things while reading this. I have so much to say, and no idea how to say it - but that's okay, because O'Neill says it so well. Okay. Stepping back. Down Along with That Devil's Bones does what it says on the tin: by using monuments of Nathan Bedford Forrest - Confederate war monger, slave trader, and leader of the KKK - and people's relationships to them, the book asks us - specifically, asks white people - to reckon with the fact that that history is our history. O'Neill pulls no punches, not in his writing nor his interviewing, asking his subjects how they can defend the statues of Forrest. I won't be the first to tell you that the absolute leaps in logic there are stupendous. And in fact, that's what the statues themselves are about. He interviews Derek Alderman, the University of Tennessee expert on monuments and memorials, who says that though "...Confederate monuments are ostensibly about remembering the past, '[they] can also be about facilitating forgetting ... the public is encouraged to see the past in one way. So inherently it is being encouraged not to remember another part of the past.'" But while that cogent take definitely has a lot of truth in it, it neglects the "Heritage Not Hate" ignorance - the more willful kind of ignorance - that people like Lee Millar, the spokesman for the Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, profess, the kind that says, when confronted with a quote from Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, who said explicitly that slavery was the cornerstone of the Confederacy, would respond, "Yeah, I feel that opinion is wrong[.] He's just one man." Yeah. Okay. This book is a direct refutation of that kind of intentional forgetting. Through thorough research and miles on the road, traveling from memorial to memorial, O'Neill unpacks the part of history that begs to be seen - the violence, the racism, the fear - and outlines what we must do not to let that part slip away. The first thing? Bring the monuments down.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    This was an eye opening read because I had heard of Nathan Bedford Forrest but didn’t know much about him. It was fascinating how the author takes the story of activists trying to get this KKK grand wizard’s monuments down (and his supporters efforts to stop it from happening) across four different places, to give a scathing commentary on how all this discourse is more about people trying to cling onto their racist ideals rather than some perceived Southern heritage. He also gives some backstory This was an eye opening read because I had heard of Nathan Bedford Forrest but didn’t know much about him. It was fascinating how the author takes the story of activists trying to get this KKK grand wizard’s monuments down (and his supporters efforts to stop it from happening) across four different places, to give a scathing commentary on how all this discourse is more about people trying to cling onto their racist ideals rather than some perceived Southern heritage. He also gives some backstory about Forrest himself and how this slaveholder came to be such a popular figure in confederate America. But ultimately it’s not completely a hopeful book despite being written brilliantly. The efforts of all the people trying to bring down these monuments is highly commendable but they do seem to be having many setbacks which is depressing; but more sad is the immense racial divisions and hate that exist, the willful ignorance regards to understanding actual history of the country, and not really having a clear idea how it can be solved. But that’s not the book’s fault and I definitely recommend the audiobook which is very well narrated.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    disclaimer, i know and like connor, so i am predisposed to like his book in which an inquisitive reporter takes a long look at confederate memorialization, specifically in the name and shape of nathan bedford forrest. really satisfying combo of lively writing and deep research. RIYL memory palace, tony horwitz, that one level in goldeneye where you are fighting in a park full of broken statues. spoiler: at the end it turns out white people need to do better.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    READ THIS BOOK! When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is closed and you are in #COVID19 #socialisolation, superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. (I have played a zillion games of scrabble, done a zillion crosswords and I AM BORED!!!) I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publis READ THIS BOOK! When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is closed and you are in #COVID19 #socialisolation, superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. (I have played a zillion games of scrabble, done a zillion crosswords and I AM BORED!!!) I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. An unexpected, eye-opening account of how we got from Appomattox to Charlottesville—and where we might go next—told in marble, bronze, and brick. In the spring of 2015, journalist Connor Towne O'Neill—visiting Selma, Alabama, on the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when black protesters were beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge—stumbled upon a meeting of a neo-Confederate group calling themselves the Friends of Forrest. Their mission: to keep alive the memory of Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the most effective, and vicious, Confederate generals and the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Just two months later, Dylann Roof killed nine black worshippers in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attempt to start a new race war. The juxtaposition of these events sent O'Neill down a rabbit hole of exploration into the newly raging fights over Confederate monuments—the history these memorials tell and the history they obscure. In the course of Down Along with That Devil's Bones, O'Neill brings the reader along as he travels across Alabama and Tennessee to dive deeper into the story of Nathan Bedford Forrest, less known than Robert E. Lee, but to a segment of people, he met still a white supremacist hero. Exploring local battles over statues and buildings dedicated to Forrest, talking to activists and academics alike, O'Neill uses Forrest as a lens through which to understand some of the racial upheavals of recent years, delivering a personal and soul-searching series of dispatches from the (increasingly bloody) battlefields of our country’s symbolic landscape, tracing the memory of one of the Confederacy’s most vicious defenders to reveal a cold Civil War that is, every day, smouldering back to life. And at the same time, O'Neill, a white northerner now living in Alabama, finds he has to revise the story he has believed about himself and his own privileged distance—he thought—from white supremacy. Maybe I am showing my age but, OF COURSE, I know who Nathan Bedford Forrest is - he is who Forrest Gump" was named after: he is even shown with the rest of the KKK on horseback in said movie! That aside, (get ready, I go on a lot of diatribes and sidebars) this book is REALLY SCARY TO READ. I am Canadian and I know that there are white supremacists around in this country (In the past, I worked with one) but this is something I normally read about in the news. The research that went into this book is staggering and it is presented in a way that the book does not read like a thesis. (Does that make sense? I have read and reviewed a lot of books that read and "sounded" like dissertations that leave the everyday reader bored at the minutiae: this is not one of those books). I actually enjoyed reading this book as I learned so much in an enjoyable way. It sucks you and although it is a shorter book (250 or so pages) and it makes one wonder what is going to happen in the future - will it be as Mr Towne O'Neill said or will it be worse? (Maybe that is up to us?? Maybe humanity will win? Maybe they will?) Read this book and decided for yourself what we need to do... As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube Millionaires/etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it some Bubba Gump (yes I had to go there!!!) 🥠🥠🥠🥠🥠 (As a matter of fact, I am now going to watch that movie this afternoon!!!) READ THIS BOOK!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Margie

    A deeply disturbing exploration of the forces for & against Confederate monuments (focusing on those memorializing Nathan Bedford Forrest - a notorious slave trader, Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the KKK) in Selma, Murfreesboro, Nashville and Memphis. That there are still people would want to honor this horrible person is shock and a disgrace, but this is where we are. This book will make you want to go tear down Confederate statues with your bare hands.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alysa H.

    I wish that this book could have been ready for publication just a few months earlier than it was, because it would have gotten more attention then, during what appears to have been 2020’s high peak for the removal of Confederate statues monuments across the American south. That being said, it is still an important work that I hope a lot of people will read — and of course, many of these statues and monuments are still standing. Worse yet, the “thought monument” of post-Civil War white supremacy I wish that this book could have been ready for publication just a few months earlier than it was, because it would have gotten more attention then, during what appears to have been 2020’s high peak for the removal of Confederate statues monuments across the American south. That being said, it is still an important work that I hope a lot of people will read — and of course, many of these statues and monuments are still standing. Worse yet, the “thought monument” of post-Civil War white supremacy is still standing. Connor Towne O’Neill tells the history of these monuments, and grapples with America’s history and present as a white supremacist country. As a white man, originally from Pennsylvania, he is open about his increasing awareness of his own privileged position as he dives deeper into the issues at hand, primary by focusing on many white Southerners’ continued veneration of Nathan Bedford Forrest. More and more, he shows how the arguments for and against taking these monuments down are really not equivalent. Not even close. One thing that I wish the author had discussed more explicitly is the fact of America’s allowing monuments to Confederate “heroes” to be built in the first place. All throughout history, the winners of wars have destroyed the monuments of the losers. But America not only allowed former Confederates — essentially people who committed treason (in order to maintain slavery, it bears repeating!) — to gain position in US government and thereby enact harmful legislature against Black people and other marginalized groups, we allowed them to build state-sanctioned monuments as what the author would call “palliatives” to the underlying disease of white supremacy. I wish the author had gone further with contextualizing that, as it would have helped bolster the argument that America itself, and not just the old South (or today’s South), is a white supremacist country. Also, by focusing so narrowly on the cult of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the book can give Northern white readers a sort of easy out that they (we!) do not deserve. ** I received a Review Copy of this book via NetGalley **

  13. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Tokuda-Hall

    I just saw the title and was interested, but I didn't realize it was largely a white man centering himself in a meditation on Confederate legacy, which is not my favorite genre. Aside from that, I just wasn't compelled by the writing style, which used a lot stretched metaphors. Still, I'm sure this book would be valuable for other white people learning to talk about racism. Did not finish. I just saw the title and was interested, but I didn't realize it was largely a white man centering himself in a meditation on Confederate legacy, which is not my favorite genre. Aside from that, I just wasn't compelled by the writing style, which used a lot stretched metaphors. Still, I'm sure this book would be valuable for other white people learning to talk about racism. Did not finish.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I understand, and think there is a place for, the criticism of this book for centering a white man's personal experience as a book about white supremacy - but it's actually one of the things I found most effective. O'Neill begins thinking he's going to write about the reverberations of American history, the past that "some" people haven't moved on from. But as he continues he research, he learns that he, by nature of being a white, is implicated in this story. It's a lesson that many Northern wh I understand, and think there is a place for, the criticism of this book for centering a white man's personal experience as a book about white supremacy - but it's actually one of the things I found most effective. O'Neill begins thinking he's going to write about the reverberations of American history, the past that "some" people haven't moved on from. But as he continues he research, he learns that he, by nature of being a white, is implicated in this story. It's a lesson that many Northern white people refuse to learn, but O'Neill uses this reality to guide his story. He implicates all white readers with the history of white supremacy, refusing to pull any punches. O'Neill does a deft job threading antebellum and postbellum American history to our contemporary moment. He builds up specific fights for monument removal - while still giving space to activists who think symbols should take a secondary priority in the fight for ending white supremacy. He refuses easy answers and, through the very epilogue, makes it clear that the onus is on us to move our country forward and face our history of white supremacy (and so stomp it out) for good.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bax Yarbrough

    I was very skeptical of this book at first, expecting it to be the opinions of a northerner describing what is wrong with the south. I was pleasantly surprised that that was not the case. I was moved by the author’s statements emphasizing that racism and white supremacy are not just on southerners to end. We are all accountable for what happens in the future with these national issues. I am thankful to have read this and to have gained a better understanding of a region I dearly, dearly love. In I was very skeptical of this book at first, expecting it to be the opinions of a northerner describing what is wrong with the south. I was pleasantly surprised that that was not the case. I was moved by the author’s statements emphasizing that racism and white supremacy are not just on southerners to end. We are all accountable for what happens in the future with these national issues. I am thankful to have read this and to have gained a better understanding of a region I dearly, dearly love. In the end, I am asking myself these big questions: who have we been, who are we, and who might we yet be? My notes/questions, mainly taken while reading the last section and reflecting on the book as a whole: Why do we treat hate as though it is a difference of opinion? What do we invited ourselves to remember? What memories/history does a space ask you to reflect upon, and what emotion(s) are you requested to engage with? A favorite couple of quotes too: “[It was] redolent of dignity and grief and shame and love and horror and confession and good and evil and the devil and God– in other words, it was wholly American.” “The bargain we play with capitalism.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    MAB

    This book was fine. I had some trouble empathizing with the author's sentiment that his positionality above the Mason-Dixon line somehow precluded him from racism. Black scholars have been discussing Northern economic complicity and de facto segregation for a very long time and black folks outside of academia have been recording incidents of police violence all over the United States since the 1990's. Bearing that in mind, I sort of wondered why O'Neill needed to launch an entire investigation t This book was fine. I had some trouble empathizing with the author's sentiment that his positionality above the Mason-Dixon line somehow precluded him from racism. Black scholars have been discussing Northern economic complicity and de facto segregation for a very long time and black folks outside of academia have been recording incidents of police violence all over the United States since the 1990's. Bearing that in mind, I sort of wondered why O'Neill needed to launch an entire investigation to sort out the privileges that BIPOC have been talking about for over a hundred years. Having said this, I do think O'Neill's whiteness grants him access to a lot of spaces and conversations that aren't safe for most people of color. Near the end of the book, he directly challenges a white supremacist's support of NB Forrest and it's a very powerful moment in the text. If O'Neill has shown us anything, it's that white supremacists devalue black experience, so perhaps it's productive for racial uplift to have allies, like the author, who push back against that devaluation.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I rarely give 5 stars to a book but I did this one. It is not a long book but tremendously insightful into the current controversy surrounding the removal of Confederate monuments so ubiquitous in the South (and some elsewhere, as well). It centers on the the experiences surrounding memorials to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a greatly revered Confederate general about whom I knew very little, in four different southern cities. It really forces one to acknowledge how and why African Americans feel the I rarely give 5 stars to a book but I did this one. It is not a long book but tremendously insightful into the current controversy surrounding the removal of Confederate monuments so ubiquitous in the South (and some elsewhere, as well). It centers on the the experiences surrounding memorials to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a greatly revered Confederate general about whom I knew very little, in four different southern cities. It really forces one to acknowledge how and why African Americans feel the way they do about such monuments and why we who are white and have (however unintentionally) profited from systemic racism in this country should be advocating for their removal or relocation as well. It's an excellent read for our times!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julie Cardinal

    I was expecting this book to be more of a history of white supremacist groups and there was a little bit of that, but it was also an overview of the Black Lives Matter movement, especially on college campuses. Since I work on a college campus, I’m pretty attune to these issues already, so not a whole lot of new information. This would be an excellent book for a high school history class in 20 years from now.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Mangler

    Knowing a bit about the history of confederate monuments (specifically when they were erected), I find the current debate about them infuriating. Reading this book only increased my fury. Why do we still have to debate this? It's just so gross. Focusing on the history and legacy of Nathan Bedford Forrest was an interesting choice and really helped O'Neill explore the issue in depth. Knowing a bit about the history of confederate monuments (specifically when they were erected), I find the current debate about them infuriating. Reading this book only increased my fury. Why do we still have to debate this? It's just so gross. Focusing on the history and legacy of Nathan Bedford Forrest was an interesting choice and really helped O'Neill explore the issue in depth.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kelsi

    Thank you to Libro FM for this free ALC in exchange for an honest review. Down Along with That Devil's Bones was a timely read as I tried to grapple with the awful events at the nation's capitol on January 6, 2021. The author's investigation and deep dive into white supremacy and the history behind monuments and stories in the south was fascinating. It helped me understand some of the fears and beliefs of the insurrectionists. The audio was fairly good, but nothing spectacular. Thank you to Libro FM for this free ALC in exchange for an honest review. Down Along with That Devil's Bones was a timely read as I tried to grapple with the awful events at the nation's capitol on January 6, 2021. The author's investigation and deep dive into white supremacy and the history behind monuments and stories in the south was fascinating. It helped me understand some of the fears and beliefs of the insurrectionists. The audio was fairly good, but nothing spectacular.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    Thoughtful and timely. A great starting point and yet a strong reflection.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sabra Kurth

    Using the life and legacy of Nathan Bedford Forrest as a backdrop, the author examines recent civil rights history.

  23. 5 out of 5

    vanessa

    This book is from the perspective of a curious person investigating the renewed conversation surrounding confederate monuments. The author interviews people who believe these statues are heritage and people involved in Black Lives Matter chapters trying to take down monuments. Through all of these present-day interactions, O'Neill discusses Nathan Bedford Forrest and his legacy. The narration in the audiobook was kind of dry. We're following multiple groups in multiple states (it's a travelog in This book is from the perspective of a curious person investigating the renewed conversation surrounding confederate monuments. The author interviews people who believe these statues are heritage and people involved in Black Lives Matter chapters trying to take down monuments. Through all of these present-day interactions, O'Neill discusses Nathan Bedford Forrest and his legacy. The narration in the audiobook was kind of dry. We're following multiple groups in multiple states (it's a travelog in part) so sometimes it was hard to follow and some chapters looked into more interesting stories than others. My favorite parts were the chapters about MTSU and the last chapter about EJI.

  24. 5 out of 5

    L.

    A clear eyed and journalistic account of Pennsylvania transplant O'Neill's research into the southern cult of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the KKK. Although he delves into the life and lionization of Forrest over the years, this book is more a rumination on how racist structures and symbols persist in the present day. O'Neill examines how collective memory, memorialization, and the enactment of history in public spaces like streets, college campuses, and national parks serv A clear eyed and journalistic account of Pennsylvania transplant O'Neill's research into the southern cult of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the KKK. Although he delves into the life and lionization of Forrest over the years, this book is more a rumination on how racist structures and symbols persist in the present day. O'Neill examines how collective memory, memorialization, and the enactment of history in public spaces like streets, college campuses, and national parks serve to reinforce deeply held Southern mythologies (like the Lost Cause or Southern redemption) while also violently rejecting any historical narratives that seem to run counter to these personal beliefs. Why there so many monuments to and places named for Forrest across the South when his racism was well documented? How can some southerners continue to insist that Confederate symbols are innocent of their racist historical contexts and should be venerated as unproblematic artifacts of Southern culture and history? How do such attitudes continue to terrorize and oppress black American, underlining the racial disparities that persist to the present day? I'm writing this review in the midst of demonstrations regarding the horrific extrajudicial killing of George Floyd by law enforcement, a senseless tragedy that is not an anomaly but the norm for the black community. This book is a timely and important contribution to the national discussion that is taking place regarding race relations in America, a conversation that has taken place too many times before with little progress. Let us hope this time sees some lasting change and reform. I definitely recommend keeping an eye out for "Down Along with That Devil's Bones" when it comes out in October, and also for Edward Ball's "Life of a Klansman" (due out August). Many thanks to Algonquin and Goodreads for the giveaway that provided me with an ARC of this book

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Ladd

    I had downloaded this advanced reader copy days before George Floyd was killed. I have a degree in history and a strong interest in the Civil War, and was looking forward to reading about a topic that I have struggled with. Connor Towne O'Neill had what one would consider a lightning bolt moment. Racing to attend the anniversary of the Selma March with President Obama participating, he was trying to find a parking spot. He pulled into a cemetery and witnessed a local Confederate group around a s I had downloaded this advanced reader copy days before George Floyd was killed. I have a degree in history and a strong interest in the Civil War, and was looking forward to reading about a topic that I have struggled with. Connor Towne O'Neill had what one would consider a lightning bolt moment. Racing to attend the anniversary of the Selma March with President Obama participating, he was trying to find a parking spot. He pulled into a cemetery and witnessed a local Confederate group around a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest. This dichotomy, of a gathering to remember a pivotal moment in Civil Rights history, versus this other gathering a few blocks away, set him on a journey to try and understand both sides of the debate around Confederate statues and buildings in the South. Both sides are passionate, and truly believe in their cause. But those who want to keep these statues in place have very narrow ideas of history. Forrest was a notorious slave trader, who made a lot of money selling slaves up the river from Memphis. But "that was then" is the excuse, and all of these organizations only want to remember him, and others for their bravery during the Civil War, and refuse to recognize the daily pain inflicted on the descendants of those slaves. So much of the history is truly white-washed in the name of preserving the old South. Come October when this book comes out, I believe there will still be plenty of statues, and protests around this issue. Though it was gratifying to know that the Mississippi Flag came down the day before I finished reading this excellent book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sue Trav

    Thank you to the publisher, the author and NetGalley for the ARC of this book. This was a very timely read! The author takes us on a journey to the south in an effort to understand why Confederate statues are more than history. Why are statues/monuments that oppress black Americans still standing? Other statues are gone (King George, Nazi statues in Germany, Saddam Hussein statues in Baghdad) are all gone. Why does America keep statues of people who lost the Civil War? It also touches a bit on th Thank you to the publisher, the author and NetGalley for the ARC of this book. This was a very timely read! The author takes us on a journey to the south in an effort to understand why Confederate statues are more than history. Why are statues/monuments that oppress black Americans still standing? Other statues are gone (King George, Nazi statues in Germany, Saddam Hussein statues in Baghdad) are all gone. Why does America keep statues of people who lost the Civil War? It also touches a bit on the history of the Klan, both the original Klan and the variations that have come along since. I found myself nodding my head when he talked about how black success threatens white power. I had no idea how prevalent lynchings were and some of the stories were hard to read (the story of Thomas Moss in particular). This reads like a history book with the author's own personal story mentioned along the way. Highly recommend this if you are interested in the history of the South.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia

    7/10 or 3.5 stars Pros: -very well researched -the format of the book was interesting. one long narrative with shorter historical anecdotes for added context -interesting topic Cons: -some unneccesary information that didn't add much to the book -the narrator yelling the n word in my ear several times (not joking) 7/10 or 3.5 stars Pros: -very well researched -the format of the book was interesting. one long narrative with shorter historical anecdotes for added context -interesting topic Cons: -some unneccesary information that didn't add much to the book -the narrator yelling the n word in my ear several times (not joking)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    Down Along with That Devil's Bones "Same war. Same general" Is the two lines that tie this book together. Predicated on the understanding that we are still fighting the ideology of the Civil War and the use of Nathan Bedford Forrest as the common thread through which those ideas are made tangible and menacing depending on which side you take in a few areas in the South. Whenever laws designed to level the playing field were enacted a backlash in the form of a new monument would be erected to try Down Along with That Devil's Bones "Same war. Same general" Is the two lines that tie this book together. Predicated on the understanding that we are still fighting the ideology of the Civil War and the use of Nathan Bedford Forrest as the common thread through which those ideas are made tangible and menacing depending on which side you take in a few areas in the South. Whenever laws designed to level the playing field were enacted a backlash in the form of a new monument would be erected to try to maintain the racial caste system. I vaguely remember being at a UDC meeting in Atlanta, Georgia when I was very young. I sat at a table with other young girls as we ate some sort of Southern salad with cottage cheese and peaches on iceberg lettuce as we listened to the older women talk about Southern heritage. I meekly listened, but never attended another meeting. I do remember going to hear my mother play bagpipes graveside during a memorial service that she attended annually for several years and played her bagpipes. I had and have several relatives that subscribe to the heritage argument when it comes to monuments and symbols being openly displayed. I am on the other side where I am for putting those symbols in a museum with information that gives the context of how they came to be and how they were used, but I do not want them displayed in places of honor in our cities and parks. The refrain of "heritage not hate" is often heard when the subject of removing Confederate monuments, or the display of the Confederate flag. Those wanting to keep those symbols romanticize the era without looking to the foundation of that those monuments are truly based on which is that the white race was superior and blacks were inferior and they were willing to kill to maintain their power. The author talks about whites being confederates in a lie back to colonial times, "Whiteness is a coalition of power among a loose, shifting group of pale-skinned European Americans." "In all their efforts the UDC planted a white supremacist vision of the Lost Cause deeper into the nation's historical imagination than perhaps any other association." And one of my least favorite symbols is the Confederate flag. I see it as symbolizing systemic racism and a warning that the person displaying it is willing to terrorize and kills to maintain the power and place they had tried to acquire. It is a symbol of sedition to the ideals of a nation that espouses equality and opportunity for all. The Confederate flag made a comeback under when Strom Thurmond rouses the Dixiecrat rebellion in 1948 with a group of Southern Democrats angered by civil rights laws put in place under President Truman. "In 1956, Georgia state representative Denmark Groover put a finer point on its reemergence when he claimed that the state's newly approved flag included Confederate symbolism "mostly out of defiance to federal integration orders." I was struck profoundly by the author's statement, "...the US only became a true democracy with the passage of the Voting Rights At in 1965." Then, less than 50 years later in 2013 the Voting Rights Act, in a 5-4 decision, in Shelby County V. Holder put the burden on the voters to prove they were being disenfranchised. This allowed for discriminatory actions to to go into effect where prior they could be blocked before becoming law. unfortunately we have to always be aware of the insidious ways ideology can creep in and twist our fear, or act upon our more base instincts of greed, or want of power and be curious instead. Learn about others and be more empathetic. Learn history without rose colored glasses. I high recommend reading this book on our nations very problematic relationship with history and compassion. We have books that contain the history of the battles, leaders, and symbols. The monuments show what we value as a society and should never be there to menace an entire group of people to remind them of those who only valued them as a commodity not as the human beings they have always been.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Julie Griffin

    It was the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma March and the author turned into a cemetery near the Edmund Pettis Bridge, hoping to find parking, and is confronted with a group readying a memorial site for the return of a statue, hotly contested, of former Confederate soldier and assumed by many to be the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. The juxtaposition of two Souths, two Americas--one celebrating a struggle for equal rights, one keeping alive a past built on supremacy--sends It was the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma March and the author turned into a cemetery near the Edmund Pettis Bridge, hoping to find parking, and is confronted with a group readying a memorial site for the return of a statue, hotly contested, of former Confederate soldier and assumed by many to be the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. The juxtaposition of two Souths, two Americas--one celebrating a struggle for equal rights, one keeping alive a past built on supremacy--sends the author off in search of the environment, the history, the culture clashes surrounding four such monuments nearby his base near the University of Alabama. He visits Selma, Memphis, Nashville, and Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This is an exhaustive account of the discussions that are going on, and that need to be had, especially in light of the death of a young protester in Virginia. Everyone gets their space to talk. A reconciliation service in an Episcopal Church in Memphis, which stands on the site of Forrest's old slave market, and during which the names of the humans bought and sold on that site are named one by one to afford some dignity and recognition, will always stay with me. The author has much in common with my own experience, even sharing the University of Alabama, but with opposite bookends; he is a Northerner who moved to and lives in the South. As a Southerner who moved to and lives in the Upper Midwest now, I breathed in and swam in the waters that he experiences anew. I was raised in the contradictions of Alabama. In the eighth grade, all of our social studies classes took a field trip to Montgomery where we toured the First White House of the Confederacy and the Confederate sections of the state archives; we were within site of the church that housed the start of the Civil Rights movement, but not a word was said about that part of our history. Decades later, I brought my children to see it, and the moving SPLC monument. This book brings up a fresh appreciation for living with a foot in both worlds. Alabama gave us, after all, Harper Lee as well as George Wallace. Well researched and well written. Highly recommend.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    I originally ordered this book from my library because I was excited to see that one of my favorite creative writing professors at UA publish a book. What I didn’t expect, however, was how much I would see my perspective as a native Alabamian in that of a PA transplant’s. Growing up in Montgomery, I knew intellectually that my hometown was steeped in violent and transformative history. But being born and raised in the cradle of the Confederacy and birthplace of civil rights is was just the air I I originally ordered this book from my library because I was excited to see that one of my favorite creative writing professors at UA publish a book. What I didn’t expect, however, was how much I would see my perspective as a native Alabamian in that of a PA transplant’s. Growing up in Montgomery, I knew intellectually that my hometown was steeped in violent and transformative history. But being born and raised in the cradle of the Confederacy and birthplace of civil rights is was just the air I breathed and the water I drank - I didn’t really pay too much attention to any of it. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t fully piece together how close the horror and cruelty of the active slave trade was to where my mom works or where I went to Biscuits games until visiting the EJI museum after I graduated from college. It’s taken several years of living away from AL to fully reckon with the monuments to white supremacy I was surrounded by my entire life. From living in a neighborhood called “Sturbridge Plantations”, to attended a private high school that was literally founded as a segregation academy, to traipsing across UA’s campus and all its relics of the Confederacy - I had a base line understanding of why it was all so deeply wrong, but it took me a long while to realize how much my Alabama upbringing numbed me to the horrors of my home state and town. I’m still reckoning with how my birthplace has shaped my understanding of whiteness, community, and history. It’s a real testament to Connor’s writing that I never bristled at reading so much about the South and its deficiencies being described by a Pennsylvanian. The care, honesty, and generosity of perspective in this book leaps off every page. It’s also - even when dealing with truly dark subject matter - a pleasure to read. The author’s wit combined with a clear love of his adopted new home made this book easy to tear through and something I’ll be eager to revisit.

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