A must-read for all concerned with civil rights and social justice in modern America.

AMERICA ON FIRE

THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF POLICE VIOLENCE AND BLACK REBELLION SINCE THE 1960S

Thought-provoking examination of “the cycle,” whereby minority protests against police brutality beget only more violence.

Yale historian Hinton focuses largely on Black communities. Early on, she recounts the history of lynch mobs across the country, reacting to Black advances in economic well-being and civil rights through armed violence, “a means to police the activities of Black people and to limit their access to jobs, leisure, franchise and to the political sphere.” In time, police forces came to do this work, and the result, “especially between 1968 and 1972,” was “internal violence on a scale not seen since the Civil War.” In a pattern all too familiar to minority citizens and, after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, to everyone with the means to see, the police typically react with more violence when some previous act of their violence is called into question. This is in some measure, by Hinton’s account, because of easily exploited calls on the parts of politicians and some voters for “law and order,” which in turn hinges on White fears “that Black people might rise up in violence,” fears that began with the first enslaved Black person on the continent. The cycle of public rebellions begins, as the author sharply describes it, with the police interfering with some ordinary activity, whether skateboarding or drinking in a park, and then confronting other young people who arrive to aid their peers. That cycle, Hinton persuasively argues, “began with the police.” Here she quotes James Baldwin, who noted that police rampaged minority communities “like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country.” Among Hinton’s many villains are one-time Florida state’s attorney Janet Reno, who declined to prosecute “police officers who violently attacked or killed Black residents.” Other attorneys have followed suit to this day—and so, Hinton’s well-reasoned and emphatically argued book has it, the cycle continues and shows no signs of abating.

A must-read for all concerned with civil rights and social justice in modern America.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-890-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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