Impressive work by an up-and-coming historian.

AMERICAN UPRISING

THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA'S LARGEST SLAVE REVOLT

Recent Harvard grad Rasmussen uncovers the buried history of “the largest slave revolt in American history.”

In 1811 outside of New Orleans, 500 enslaved men, some armed with guns, battled plantation owners. “While Nat Turner and John Brown have become household names,” the author writes, “Kook and Quamana, Harry Kenner, and Charles Deslondes [the leaders of the revolt] have barely earned a footnote in American history.” Rasmussen not only provides the backdrop against which the battle occurred, but explores the cultural roots of the conflict. Only eight years before, a successful slave rebellion had driven out the plantation owners, transforming the French sugar-producing colony Saint Domingue (now Haiti) into a free republic. That same year the United States had acquired the Louisiana Purchase and was still struggling to assimilate the disgruntled French sugar planters. In the early years of the occupation of the new territory, federal troops had to “confront the dangers of a sugar colony that relied on the forced labor of a slave population,” while driving the Spanish out of Florida. The leaders of the 1811 revolt seized the opportunity of kickoff celebrations to the Carnival season for “a fight to the death against the planters and their militia.” The brutal battle initially ended in a temporary victory, but reprisals were severe and the heads of executed prisoners were displayed on pikes. Rasmussen believes that this was a first step on the road to freedom. During the War of 1812, British forces garrisoned a fort with former slaves whom they had freed, and by the end of the Civil War “black soldiers constituted nearly 10 percent of the fighting force of the North.”

Impressive work by an up-and-coming historian.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-199521-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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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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