A succinct, discerning study of the nation’s first aborted attempt at racial equality.




A sterling account of Reconstruction, that misunderstood period of revolution and reaction following the Civil War.

Half the length and without the footnotes of Foner’s Bancroft Prize–winning Reconstruction (1988), this account introduces new scholarship and features evocative period art, including posters, cartoons and photographs. For nearly a century, historians characterized Reconstruction as a “tragic era” of GOP misrule and corruption by ignorant freedmen, Northern carpetbaggers and Southern scalawags. Foner (History/Columbia Univ.) sees these as myths perpetrated by Southern merchants, planters and entrepreneurs out to disenfranchise former slaves. (If the North had been as vindictive after the Civil War as was claimed, Foner points out, then Confederate leaders would have been put on trial, with planters exiled en masse.) With Abraham Lincoln assassinated and the Radical Republicans’ program of land redistribution derailed, hopes for economic progress for freedmen were dealt crushing blows. Nevertheless, Foner shows, at the height of Reconstruction in the early 1870s, an unprecedented experiment—biracial democracy—had produced for the first time in the South tax-supported school systems and laws that protected laborers and outlawed discrimination. But labor unrest made Northerners more sympathetic to white Southerners’ objections to Reconstruction, and the Republicans grew increasingly reluctant to use federal troops to protect African-Americans from what Foner calls “domestic terrorism” perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan and other groups. Six trenchant “visual essays” by Joshua Brown discuss how visual imagery often negatively influenced white attitudes toward African-Americans.

A succinct, discerning study of the nation’s first aborted attempt at racial equality.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-40259-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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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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