After conquering Atlanta in the summer of 1864 and occupying it for
two months, Union forces laid waste to the city in November.
William T. Sherman's invasion was a pivotal moment in the history
of the South and Atlanta's rebuilding over the following fifty
years came to represent the contested meaning of the Civil War
itself. The war's aftermath brought contentious transition from Old
South to New for whites and African Americans alike. Historian
William Link argues that this struggle defined the broader meaning
of the Civil War in the modern South, with no place embodying the
region's past and future more clearly than Atlanta.
Link frames the city as both exceptional--because of the incredible
impact of the war there and the city's phoenix-like postwar
rise--and as a model for other southern cities. He shows how, in
spite of the violent reimposition of white supremacy, freedpeople
in Atlanta built a cultural, economic, and political center that
helped to define black America.