Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite
Lalita Tademy left the corporate world to research her family history. In her latest book, Red River, the accomplished author shares the true story of the “Colfax Riot.” She successfully intertwines history and fiction to educate and entertain the reader.
The setting is Colfax, Louisiana, 1873. The Civil War had ended years before, and the “colored” had been given their freedom. In many ways, it was a freedom in name only. There was still a lot of hatred between white and black. The Southern Democrats had been voted out and the Republicans in. The black men banded together to guard their town. They gather at the courthouse to defend their rights. The White League, a group of vigilantes, determined to regain control of the government and attack the courthouse, brutally murdering the men protecting it. The ones that surrendered were hung. Two white men and over one hundred black men were killed. Sam Tademy and Israel Smith survived; they are the ancestors of Lalita Tademy. The story does not end there; it continues on spanning three generations, sharing a tale of survival, triumph, and growth. Sam carried through with his dream to have a school for the black children in Colfax. It took hardship, tears, and work but he met the challenges and succeeded.
Red River by Lalita Tademy is a must read for all Americans, for we take for granted our right to vote. We have become lazy and complacent. Ms. Tademy successfully tells the heartbreaking story of the “Colfax Riot,” which was not a riot at all but a massacre. I liked this book; it has educated me to a piece of history that I knew little about. It has reminded me that men fought for the rights I take for granted. The first part of Red River, is very sad and has much violence. The second half offers hope and optimism. Red River is not an easy read; it will stir the emotions of the reader. The narrator is Polly, I would have preferred that the book be told first person. I found I had to concentrate on the words while reading this book, it is written in the manner that Polly would have talked. This would be a fine addition to a library, or to as a gift to a history buff.