Nicholas Lemann, born in New Orleans in 1954, began his journalistic career there; he subsequently worked at The Washington Monthly, The Washington Post, and Texas Monthly. National correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly from 1983 to 1998, he is now a staff writer at The New Yorker, a frequent contributor to other national magazines, and dean of the School of Journalism at Columbia University. The author of The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy and The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, Mr. Lemann lives in Pelham, New York, with his family.
ADELBERT AND BLANCHE
One function that politics serves is to embody, through parties, the sometimes startlingly different ways in which people can perceive the same situation. To a Republican during the Reconstruction era, Adelbert Ames would have seemed to be a very promising young American. He was the son of a sea captain, born in the port town of Rockland, Maine, in 1835; his family had been in America since the seventeenth century and, by the time Adelbert was a young man, had acquired enough influence to get him an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West