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BEFORE THE MOVEMENT

THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF BLACK CIVIL RIGHTS

A closely argued addition to our understanding of the origins of the Civil Rights Movement.

Broad-ranging study showing the many ways in which Black people, enslaved and free, used custom and law to assert their rights in the years before the Civil Rights Movement coalesced.

Penningroth, a Berkeley professor of law and history and author of The Claims of Kinfolk, evokes an enslaved ancestor who, after the Battle of Richmond in 1865, ferried Confederate soldiers to safety. He was paid for his services, and though enslaved, everyone involved agreed that he owned the boat he used, a fact of property rights that did not need to be stated because it was locally acknowledged. Basing his narrative on more than 1,400 court cases, the author argues that the usual tropes of civil rights “make Black history almost synonymous with the history of race relations, as if Black lives only matter when white people are somehow in the picture.” In fact, he insists, Black people understood the law: “African Americans had a working knowledge of formal legal rules, theories, and concepts, and…put that knowledge to everyday use.” White people may have been grudging, but in general, they obeyed the formal rules of law. Before emancipation, many of the relevant laws forbade bad behavior on the part of slaveowners, such as manumitting elderly slaves (Penningroth makes careful distinctions between slave and enslaved and between slaver and slaveowner) so that they would become wards of the state. The “certain rights” of enslaved Blacks—including property, which amounted to $8.8 billion in today’s money in Virginia alone—would not be extended until they achieved fully equal rights upon emancipation, whereupon other rights, such as the right to vote and to divorce, came into contest. In a fluent narrative, Penningroth shows how these rights were negotiated and developed in sometimes unlikely contexts, all foregrounding the advances of the 1950s and beyond.

A closely argued addition to our understanding of the origins of the Civil Rights Movement.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781324093107

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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