An eye-opening biography from a trusted source on the topic.

A fresh look at John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, abolitionism, and other related American history.

The great 19th-century champion of black equality was not Lincoln, writes Kaplan (Emeritus, English/Queens Coll.; John Quincy Adams: American Visionary, 2014, etc.), who has authored biographies of both of his principal figures. In this insightful, often disturbing dual biography, he makes a convincing case that Adams, working decades before Lincoln, was the real hero. The ex-president returned to Washington as a member of the House of Representatives in 1830. He never liked slavery, but it was not a priority during his presidency. In 1836, enraged by anti-slavery petitions, Southern representatives passed the legendary “gag rule” that forbade their discussion. Galvanized to action, Adams fought, eventually successfully, to overturn it, thereby becoming abolition’s leading spokesman until his death. Kaplan emphasizes that, unlike all other great men who disapproved of slavery (from Jefferson to Lincoln), Adams never qualified his opposition with racist rhetoric. A consummate politician, Lincoln could not offend Illinois voters who overwhelmingly considered blacks subhuman and loathed abolitionists. Lincoln publicly agreed, but his private writings give little comfort. He opposed slavery on humanitarian grounds, but, unlike Adams, “Lincoln would not go the next step…from antislavery moralism to antislavery activism.” As the Civil War raged, Lincoln fended off abolitionists, aware that most Northerners continued to despise them. The Emancipation Proclamation, a feeble step, was, as he feared, widely unpopular, but it was also the beginning of the end of the practice of slavery. This is accepted history, but readers accustomed to the worshipful History Channel view will squirm to learn that Lincoln never believed that blacks could live among whites as equals. Adams believed, and Kaplan drives this home in a fine portrait of a great man far ahead of his time.

An eye-opening biography from a trusted source on the topic.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-244000-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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