Slenderly packed scholarship conveying provocative ideas.




Historian Roediger (American Studies and History/Kansas Univ.; How Race Survived U.S. History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon, 2008, etc.) examines the self-emancipation of slaves during the Civil War as the galvanizing force behind the movements for women’s suffrage and labor improvement.

The author works from the premise that while President Abraham Lincoln vacillated over the Emancipation Proclamation, the slaves were already emancipating themselves in a massive display of biblical “Jubilee.” Fleeing to the woods, depriving the Southern plantations of their labor, and joining and aiding Union lines all created what W.E.B. Du Bois called a “general strike of the slaves.” Roediger shows how this massive self-emancipation from below set in motion “radiating impulses toward freedom,” promoting literacy for freedmen, a pursuit of family ties and a new sense of social motion. For black women, this meant a “control over time,” in the ability to choose their own work, while the idea of women’s suffrage could finally overcome its sense of sheer impossibility. Eventually, such leaders as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott formed important bonds with abolitionist leaders like Frederick Douglass. Moreover, women during the Civil War did much of the work caring for the sick and wounded, keeping the households running, raising children amid chaos and doing mostly unpaid civic duty: “Women’s suffrage consciously appealed to this heroism in arguing that voting rights were owed women.” The labor movement’s drive for an eight-hour-day gained momentum, and Irish nationalism helped open new space for ethnic solidarity. In a particularly fascinating chapter, Roediger looks at how the period of Reconstruction also offered an “emancipation from whiteness.” Wounded soldiers returning from war were perceived as “disabled,” just as blacks and women had once been regarded as “unfit” for freedom. By 1869, however, the revolutionary coalitions began to break apart, Reconstruction was betrayed, and terror swept the South.

Slenderly packed scholarship conveying provocative ideas.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1781686096

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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