Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book Review

Red River
Lalita Tademy
copyright 2007
number of pages: 432

Even though Red River is the work of fiction, Lalita Tademy entertwines her family's history and the Colfax massacre into a wonderful epic story that spans generations. In 1873, the residents of Colfax Louisiana had believed in the Reconstruction which gave them the right to vote, own property, and finally be free. But the white members of the community, and Louisiana as a whole, didn't care what rights were given to the colored people.

Sam Tademy and Israel Smith were just two members of the community that went to the courthouse in the spring of 1873, to make sure the sheriff that they voted in was able to take his position. Even though the newly elected sherriff was white, the members of the white community did not want a person in the office that they had not elected in. The help promised to be sent to help make sure that the Reconstruction is obeyed never arrives. And on the morning of April 13, 1873, Easter, after a month of being in the Courthouse and keeping the ex-sherriff out, it all comes to a terrible and violent end.

Ex-Sheriff Nash and several other white men give Tademy, Smith, and the others one more chance to come out with out violence, and let them take over the courthouse, but the offer is refused. They give them 30 minutes to allow the women and children, who were at the church to celebrate Easter, to leave before the attack begins. Led by Sam Tademy, the women and children flee to the woods. The white men set fire to the roof of the courthouse, and when the men inside start surrendering with white flags, they are shot. Seven men find refuge inside a tunnel underneath the courthouse, only to be dragged out and tied together. The white men march them to another location, stopping and taking men who had no part of the courthouse siege, tying them up with the others. Most of these men are hung, shot, and worse. In the end, 150 colored men and three white men die at the Colfax massacre.

The book follows the Tademy and Smith families many years after this, and shows how far they come. Lalita Tademy is a offspring of both families and this is her history.

Review by Tenia Fleming

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