Grounding his story in documentary and fragmentary archaeological evidence, British archaeologist Hume (Martin's Hundred, 1982) tantalizingly reconstructs the history of the earliest English settlements in America. The British drive for colonies grew out of England's 16th- century rivalry with Spain; hence the earliest English settlements in America were planted in the midst of the ``Terra Florida'' that explorers had claimed for the Spanish crown. After some abortive attempts to create an English foothold in the New World, Sir Walter Raleigh sent more than 100 English colonists under gentleman-artist John White to lay claim to the land the Elizabethans called ``Virginia.'' They landed in Roanoke, in what is now North Carolina, in July 1587. After establishing a fort and colony, White and some members of the group returned to England. When several more English ships arrived in Roanoke in 1589, the colony had vanished with few, cryptic traces. Hume painstakingly reviews the sparse evidence, both from contemporary journals and from modern forays over the site, of the Lost Colony: Almost surely, the settlers were massacred by Indians, although little evidence exists today either of their presence at Roanoke or of their fate. Similarly, Hume tracks the more successful but often tragic history of the Jamestown settlement from its birth in 1607, using artifacts and journals of the period to trace the colony's growth from its unpromising beginning as a small disease-ridden group of adventurers into a prosperous community. Hume focuses particularly on the relationship between the settlers and the Indians, which went from mutual idealization to demonization within a few years. This culminated in the 1622 slaughter by the Indian chief Opechancanough of English settlers in the area around Jamestown and an English backlash against the natives that spelled the ultimate doom of their culture. Hume breaks little novel historical ground, although he eloquently recounts the archaeological record and brings alive the lost settlements of the early American past with wit and style. (164 illustrations) (Book-of-the-Month Club selection)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1994

ISBN: 0-394-56446-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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