A good book for Civil War buffs.



Former Washington Post reporter and editor Meyer (Chesapeake Country, 2015, etc.) rights a wrong older than the Civil War: Five African-American men made up 25 percent of John Brown’s crew at Harpers Ferry. Until the 2009 sesquicentennial, they were never mentioned.

Fleeing escapees found a safe haven in Oberlin, Ohio, an integrated city strongly linked to Brown, whose father was a trustee of the college. The Great Compromise of 1850, which included the Fugitive Slave Act, drove not only escaped slaves, but also fearful free African-Americans to move. A great number settled in Ontario and built a thriving community. Dangerfield Newby was a former slave who joined Brown to rescue his wife and children, still held in slavery and under threat of being sold south. Shields Green, an escaped slave from Charleston, was living with Frederick Douglass when Brown came seeking support from Douglass in his efforts to free the slaves. Douglass turned him down, but Green joined up. Brown held a meeting to set up a free government of liberated slaves in Virginia. Osborne Anderson served as secretary and was the only one joining Brown—chosen by lottery as it turned out. In Oberlin, John Copeland told his family he was leaving to teach in a colored school, and Lewis Leary just left his family to join the fight. It’s difficult to say if any of these men truly understood Brown’s intention to take the arsenal and use a slave army in a full-scale assault on federal power. Brown only had 19 men with him; in the end, he moved the date up by a week, preventing support from many who couldn’t get there in time. Fresh in the minds of the state and federal governments was Nat Turner’s murderous rebellion, and defenders struck back hard. Though the raid failed, it is widely viewed as the opening round of the American Civil War. The author delivers a well-researched, approachable narrative, but the final section, about the men’s descendants, is overkill.

A good book for Civil War buffs.

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61373-571-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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