The title of this book refers to the emancipation of American slaves. The unique perspective that this book provides is the consideration of emancipation in the context of the last two years of the Civil War. The author, Edward L. Ayers, was instrumental in the creation of a digital archive, called the Valley of the Shadow. His first book to utilize this resource of diaries, newspapers, Freedmen’s Bureau Reports, and other documents was In the Presence of Mine Enemies. It covered the years 1859-1863. This book takes up where that left off. It considers the impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction throughout the Shenandoah Valley, but it zonks in on Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, to tell the story in very human terms. “Ayers’s splendid book… employs both a wide angle and zoom lens, interspersing fascinating individual stories with insightful historical context.… A seasoned historian… [and] a compelling writer. [Ayers] orchestrates many different voices into a steady rhythm, with a tempo that is fast-paced.”- Ronald C. White, New York Times Book Review. “Ayers set out to re-create the lived experience of the Civil War―for Northerners and Southerners, blacks and whites, men and women, soldiers and civilians―without losing sight of the political turmoil and destructive violence that affected all of them. In that he has succeeded brilliantly.”- James Oakes, Washington Post. “It’s through these individual stories that Ayers’s book achieves its most gripping reading stretches, dramatizing as few recent books have done the dual, entwined wars taking place in the years it chronicles―one a war of soldiers and battlefields, the other a war of social justice and the fight to enlarge the promise of liberty.… The Thin Light of Freedom gathers the stories of all these different aspects of the war’s final years and transmutes them into a dark and oddly uplifting tale of the forging of modern America.”- Steve Donoghue, Christian Science Monitor. President Obama bestowed the Presidential Humanities Medal on the author, Edward L. Ayers, and his historical studies have received the Bancroft Prize and the Avery O. Craven Award. This book received the Lincoln Prize. He taught at the University of Virginia from 1980 until 2007 when he became President of the University of Richmond which he served until 2015. Among his previous ten books have been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award Finalist. He was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina where his father was a car salesman and his mother a teacher. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Tennessee and his masters and doctorate at Yale.
New York: W. W. Norton, a 2018 paperback reprint of a 2017 release. 576 pages with an Index, Notes, Manuscript Collections Consulted, ten maps, and thirty illustrations. Trade paperback