The facts might fill a scholarly article, the story could form a film or novel, the scholarship would make a compelling...

THE CREOLE MUTINY

A TALE OF REVOLT ABOARD A SLAVE SHIP

Two independent scholars attempt with only moderate success to flesh out the skeletal story of an 1841 mutiny by slaves aboard a ship headed from Richmond to New Orleans.

The authors set themselves a daunting task: to reconstruct from minimal documentary evidence both the life of Madison Washington, leader of the revolt, and the mutiny itself. But at nearly every crucial moment they are forced to acknowledge that little or nothing is known, or to ask questions that simply make the same point. “Did Madison Washington arrive in Richmond in a coffle?” they ask. “How did the slaves happen to have a gun?” they wonder. With so little supporting material, they decided to tell similar stories about which more is known and imply that the cases of Madison Washington and the Creole must have been similar. The result is a collection of excerpts from slave narratives, histories of the period, and accounts of other slave revolts. (Melville’s “Benito Cereno” earns some space here.) Even the illustrations are sometimes a stretch: one shows another slave ship, while the caption indicates that the Creole resembled it neither in size nor rigging. Washington’s story is an engaging one nonetheless. He initially escaped into Canada, then took the Underground Railroad in reverse in a failed attempt to rescue his wife. He was recaptured and put aboard the Creole; he and 18 others took over the vessel, killed one officer, and sailed to Nassau in the Bahamas. British authorities there eventually freed them all, and Washington vanished from history. So the volume must suffice as a set of suppositions accompanied by a primer about the slave trade and the unspeakable conditions endured by its victims.

The facts might fill a scholarly article, the story could form a film or novel, the scholarship would make a compelling memoir. But there isn’t enough detail for the conventional history essayed here. (24 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: April 11, 2003

ISBN: 1-56663-493-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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