Powerful, poignant, and ultimately celebratory. Let the church say, “Amen!”




A scholarly and intimate look at the Black Church’s prodigious history and potential future.

In a companion book to a PBS documentary, renowned historian Gates delves into the history of the Black Church, which Harvard historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham called “the single most important institution in the Black community.” For centuries, the church has been a source of hope and strength for Black people, first as a way to address the horrific cruelty of slavery. A better life awaited the enslaved; they just had to remain faithful. At the same time, Black Christianity spurred the nation’s largest slave rebellion, and, later, the church would become the physical and spiritual home of Black social protest and the civil rights movement. Through meticulous research and interviews with scholars as well as “believers, nonbelievers, musical artists, [and] pastoral leaders,” Gates paints a compelling portrait of the church as a source of “unfathomable resiliency” for Black ancestors as well as the birthplace of so many distinctly African American aesthetic forms, including “blues, jazz, rock and roll, soul and R&B, folk, rock, and even hip-hop.” With the advent of hip-hop came a “generational shift away” from the traditional church, which now finds itself at a crossroads in an era featuring the rise of both the “bling-bling” of prosperity gospel and the socially conscious Black Lives Matter movement—not to mention the pandemic, which affects Black, Native, and Hispanic people disproportionately. Refreshingly, the author’s lens is not uncritical: He writes of a still-relevant church, as diverse as the Black experience itself, with struggles and failings, including its treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community and its dismal response to the 1980s AIDS epidemic. The book also includes generous photos, an engrossing epilogue revealing Gates’ personal religious experiences alongside additional research, and chapter-heading quotes from W.E.B. Du Bois, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., and other Black icons.

Powerful, poignant, and ultimately celebratory. Let the church say, “Amen!”

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021


Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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