Convincing and eloquent.

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WHAT THIS CRUEL WAR WAS OVER

SOLDIERS, SLAVERY, AND THE CIVIL WAR

An examination of Civil War soldiers’ attitudes on race and slavery.

Manning (History, Georgetown Univ.) bases her study, originally her Ph.D. thesis at Harvard, on soldiers’ letters home, regimental newspapers and similar documentary evidence, much of it unpublished—and liberally quoted by the author. These materials confirm that even those who were neither slaveholders nor former slaves identified slavery as the main cause of the war. This is especially important in considering southern soldiers’ justifications for fighting a conflict in which few had any personal economic stake. For the Confederate soldier in the ranks, Manning argues, slavery was the validation of white manhood, even for non-slaveholders. As a result, soldiers on both sides firmly believed that the Union cause was ultimately the end of slavery—well before Lincoln committed the U.S. to that policy. Union soldiers moving into slaveholding areas got their first look at the reality of slavery early in the war, and many were radicalized by it. The northerners were appalled that many slaves were obviously the progeny of their owners—who nonetheless treated them as little better than barnyard animals. The degrading treatment of slave women and disrespect for the family was a disgrace in their eyes. As for the southerners, not even the failure of the Confederate government to provide for soldiers’ families at home outweighed importance of preserving slavery. Northern victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg became divine vindications of the Union’s goals, especially among black soldiers, whose willingness to fight hard gave white Union soldiers—most of whom still harbored racial prejudice—the experience of working for a common goal with blacks. A final blow to Confederate troops’ morale was a proposal in late 1864, endorsed by Lee himself, to permit slaves to serve in the army as a last-ditch effort to counter the Union pressure.

Convincing and eloquent.

Pub Date: April 4, 2007

ISBN: 0-307-26482-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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