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In Robert Lowell’s “For the Union Dead,” the banality of Civil War memory underwrites apathy toward civil rights struggle. Lowell depicts a nation ironically unified in its servility to commercial interests and its indifference toward historical sacrifice and resistance to racial equality. Under such conditions, elegiac commemoration becomes impossible, and Lowell’s poem functions as a meta-elegy: a lament for a failure of memory. These conditions persist and confront Lowell’s successors, Claudia Rankine, Natasha Trethewey, and Kevin Young, who carry forward the legacy of “For the Union Dead” as they confront contemporary versions of the banality of memory and the perpetuation of racial violence.