HISTORY / Social History HISTORY / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877) BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Historical
ESSENTIAL ANTIRACIST READING
“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 sure to resonate with readers of Tony Horwitz, Timothy B. Tyson, and Robin DiAngelo.
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 and whom William Tecumseh Sherman referred to as “that devil.” 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.
A Library Journal Best Social Science Book of 2020 An Atlanta Journal-Constitution Best Southern Book of 2020
“The truth is that we Southerners have always needed dedicated, self-reflective young folks from the North guided by genius and radical love to help us exorcise the worst parts of our region. Connor Towne O’Neill walks in that radical love tradition in Down Along with That Devil’s Bones, but he does something more here. He decimates the argument for our need of Confederate statues while chronicling what their existence grants him bodily and morally.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“A personal examination of one of the great divides in our country today . . . Essential reading for how we got from Appomattox to Charlottesville—and where we might go next.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“O’Neill’s first book is a dazzling reminder that American racism is robust and virulent. He writes with a fluency of American culture that portends well for his books to come.” —New York Journal of Books
“A well-researched history and a call for reformation in America.” —BookPage
“An eloquent and provocative examination of the links between protests over Confederate monuments in the South and the resurgence of white supremacy . . . O’Neill writes with grace and genuine curiosity . . . This inquiry into the legacy of American slavery is equally distressing and illuminating.” —Publishers Weekly
“Timely, engaging.” —Booklist
“In examining the battles over monuments to Nathan Bedford Forrest, Connor O’Neill deepens his own understanding of the denial, the hatred, the horror, that still infests white people in this country, who do not want to lose their magical image of themselves as the noble race who tamed a continent and lifted up savages out of their barbarity. Unable to face the full horror of what we did in these centuries of brutality against other races, we hide in the idea of the lost cause, the idealization of what we call a way of life, and idolize figures like Forrest, a man who made his fortune in the sale of human beings, and who carved himself into history through his wholehearted embrace of the southern war effort that, by his own words, had the glorification of slavery as its purpose. It is a vital piece of the puzzle, this history, reported in clarity and rich in insight. Would that clarity and insight could lift this curse from our nation at last.” —Jim Grimsley, author of How I Shed My Skin
Connor Towne O’Neill’s writing has appeared in New York magazine, Vulture, Slate, and elsewhere, and he works as a producer on the NPR podcast White Lies, a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Audio Reporting. He lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and teaches at Auburn University and with the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project. Down Along with That Devil's Bones is his first book.