A significant, well-rendered study of a disturbing period in American history.



A powerful, moving argument that the state-sponsored expulsion of the 1830s was a horrendous turning point for the Indigenous peoples in the United States.

The systematic expulsion of Native Americans—Saunt (American History/Univ. of Georgia; West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, 2014, etc.) uses “deportation,” “expulsion,” and “extermination” as more accurate terms than “removal”—would not have happened without a law passed by Congress and approved by the executive branch, which occurred at the end of May 1830. The largely Southern-backed measure eagerly endorsed by President Andrew Jackson, who had made the “voluntary” movement of Native peoples west of the Mississippi a defining point of his candidacy, began implementation with money to remove the largely prosperous farming Choctaw of the South westward. These were the first peoples to be expelled under the 1830 law, which allowed their land to be appropriated by whites. It was an expensive and chaotic operation, not to mention horrendously inhumane, as those forced off their land endured miserable conditions, as observed and documented by Alexis de Tocqueville in late 1831. Other expelled peoples included the Senecas of Ohio and the Sauk and Meskwaki on the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers, and Saunt poignantly chronicles the movements of the dispossessed. When cholera broke out, it decimated these Indigenous communities on the move. The author incisively examines the various fictions propagated at the time to assuage the national conscience about the dispossession—e.g., that Native peoples were a desperate people dying out (many were quite prosperous) and that they were leaving their homes voluntarily. Moreover, the lands west of the Mississippi were not known or mapped, and the conditions were barren and uninhabitable. Saunt estimates the enormous wealth lost by the Indigenous families, the millions expended by the government, and the hideous wealth in land and resources gained by the speculators, colonizers, and cotton barons. The author also notes how these systematic mass deportations “became something of a model for colonial empires around the world.”

A significant, well-rendered study of a disturbing period in American history.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-60984-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?