Important research on an overlooked but significant figure.



A lively work chronicling the growth of the educated African-American movers and shakers in Washington, D.C., on the brink of renewed Jim Crow laws.

A longtime employee of the Library of Congress who wrote a significant bibliography of African-American literature, Daniel Murray (1851-1925), born to freedmen in Baltimore, ushered in a new class of educated black people advocating for reform in the nation’s capital. In this thorough work of research, Taylor (A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons, 2012) focuses on Murray and his family as participants in the wave of hopeful race relations after the Civil War; ultimately, they had to come to grips with setbacks by the turn of the century. Murray and his family, mostly illiterate, were part of the “firsts” who moved to D.C. after the war. The young Murray, following his older brother, worked as a waiter in restaurants on the ground floor of the Capitol. Having been educated in Christian schools, he got a job under Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford as a personal assistant and eventually head of periodicals. Light-skinned, bright, and ambitious, Murray dabbled lucratively in real estate and was a model citizen chosen for President William McKinley’s inauguration committee; he married a woman of illustrious abolitionist background from Oberlin, Ohio, Anna Evans, and together they formed a “power couple” in black activist Washington, joining many reform causes—e.g., Anna’s devotion to creating kindergartens for African-American children. The author chronicles how two different intellectuals—Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois—approached African-American concerns at the time and how one of the first black political groups was Murray’s National Afro-American Council, which eventually morphed into today’s NAACP. Murray’s special assignment research for the American Negro Exhibit at the Paris Exposition in 1900 would lead to his lifelong work culling African-American bibliography—the beginning of today’s black studies. As Taylor demonstrates, Murray was a pioneer and patriot.

Important research on an overlooked but significant figure.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-234609-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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