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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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