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MASON-DIXON

CRUCIBLE OF THE NATION

A rich history of regional distinctions, especially as they shaped the antebellum Republic.

A study of how the eponymous demarcation line has long been seen as far more than just an abstract border.

The surveying party led by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon was organized in the aftermath of the French and Indian War to settle border disputes among Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The region, writes Florida State historian Gray, had long been torn by war: neighbor against neighbor, white against Indigenous, with spectacular violence committed against the peaceful peoples of the Susquehanna River area. Indeed, “the story of the Line is really a story of Americans and their relationship to government,” a relationship largely marked by hostility and antagonism, and by the usual ironies: The settlers along the borderlands demanded security from the government but resisted paying the taxes to underwrite that protection. Ironically, the Mason-Dixon line, which took that name decades after the survey was completed, would eventually come to be seen as the dividing line between North and South, between slavery and freedom—ironically, that is, because, as Gray notes in this data-rich narrative, for much of the 18th century New York had nearly three times more enslaved people than Pennsylvania, whose Quaker leaders took to abolitionism early on. During the Civil War, though they remained in the Union, Delaware and Maryland allowed slavery, at least in a roundabout way. Their politicians opposed the slave trade but not slavery itself, which had the effect of raising the prices of enslaved people. Delaware defied emancipation, albeit “the position of Delaware’s Democrats was more the stuff of farce than even the rudest form of political posturing.” Finally, if briefly, the Line marked the division between free and slave states, long after it had acquired ethnic partition lines that more or less continue today, grouping a few Indigenous communities, a small number of African Americans, and sometimes contending European populations dominated by Protestant German and Scots-Irish farmers.

A rich history of regional distinctions, especially as they shaped the antebellum Republic.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9780674987616

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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