Race, patriotism, and personal heroism come together in this eye-opening early episode in Civil War history.



A Civil War tale starring a free black sailor.

Attorney and historian McGinty (Lincoln’s Greatest Case: The River, the Bridge, and the Making of America, 2015, etc.) has uncovered another compelling, little-known gem of American history, though it’s not as bloodthirsty as the title would suggest. William Tillman, an illiterate, 27-year-old, free black man from Rhode Island, worked as a ship’s cook and steward. On July 4, 1861, Tillman and a small crew left New York Harbor on the S.J. Waring, a schooner bound for Uruguay. The Civil War had just broken out, and Abraham Lincoln ordered a blockade of the Southern coast. Less than a week into the voyage, they were stopped and boarded by the crew of the Jefferson Davis, a Confederate privateer. They claimed the ship, cargo, and crew as Yankee prizes of war. Tillman would fetch a substantial amount of money when sold into slavery in Charleston. The crew kept him and two others onboard to help sail the Waring. At night, when most were sleeping, Tillman used a hatchet he kept hidden to kill the Confederate captain and two others. The rest were put in irons. As Tillman later told an official inquiry, “I will get all I can back alive, and the rest I will kill.” They now began the dangerous journey home. Captain-less, Tillman’s experience and knowledge helped them navigate coastal waters and elude other privateers. After five harrowing days at sea, they sailed into New York Harbor, 17 days after they had left. Tillman, writes the author, received a “hero’s welcome.” His story was covered by Northern and Southern publications, and after the inquiry, he was awarded salvage money. Tillman then “slipped out of the public eye and was soon forgotten.” McGinty impressively recounts this extraordinary story of a remarkable man, the “first real hero of the conflict.”

Race, patriotism, and personal heroism come together in this eye-opening early episode in Civil War history.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63149-129-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.


The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?