Dew (American Studies/Williams) uses the meticulously kept records of Virginia slaveholders to create an engrossing, often surprising record of everyday life on an estate in the antebellum South. Initially, Dew gives a matter-of-fact account of the prosperous business of entrepreneur William Weaver and Daniel Brady, Weaver's niece's husband, at Buffalo Forge and Etna Furnace, Weaver's western Virginia ironworks. The industrious and litigious Weaver was a shrewd businessman whose humanity to his slaves was practical rather than altruistic. Dew tells how Weaver built his slave labor force, trained them in the intricacies of forge work, and motivated them to work hard through incentives—notably, his ``overwork'' system in which he paid the slaves wages for tons of iron manufactured in excess of production quotas. Then Dew goes on to tell the stories of the slaves themselves—including Sam Williams, a master refiner at Buffalo Forge and Baptist community leader who earned overwork only when he chose but who also maintained a high standard of living for his family; Garland Thompson, ``an imposing figure of a man, courageous and unflinching when confronted by white authroity and capable of prodigious feats of strength and workmanship.'' Finally, Dew tells how the Buffalo Forge community broke up during the crisis of the Civil War, with the growing demand for iron finally exhausting the supply. Diphtheria, typhoid, and tuberculosis epidemics claimed slaves' lives, and Weaver's death in 1863 ended Buffalo Forge's productive life. After 1868, the forge finally closed and sharecropping replaced industiral work among the black community at Buffalo Forge. A novel contribution to the massive corpus of literature on American slavery—one that shows slaves as skilled artisans leading lives of considerable dignity and achievement, who despite their accomplishments under the slave regime never stopped yearning for freedom.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-393-03616-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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


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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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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