A solid contribution to studies of slavery in the Americas, providing useful rejoinders to other more comprehensive accounts.

FREEDOM

THE OVERTHROW OF THE SLAVE EMPIRES

A British historian charts the rise and collapse of the slave empires of Europe’s New World colonies.

There is irony in the fact that Toussaint L’Ouverture, the leader of the slave revolt that established the free state of Haiti, was himself an owner of slaves. The revolt that he led resulted in a wholesale replacement of characters but not of social structures, as former lieutenants became estate holders and former slaves became forced laborers—and sometimes even slaves again. So observes Walvin (Sugar: The World Corrupted: From Slavery to Obesity, 2018, etc.), a scholar who has done extensive work on the Caribbean slave economy. Here, he widens his view to embrace enslavement throughout North and South America, with all its grim specifics—for instance, he writes that “Africans often spent longer on board a slave ship anchored off the coast of Africa than in crossing the Atlantic,” those ships serving as horrific floating prisons until they were full enough for the captain to make a profitable trip across the ocean. Brazil is an important case study. As the author notes, 2.8 million Africans embarked as slaves from Angola alone, most bound for Brazil, joining millions of other Africans, and there they took roles in every sector of society. As with L’Ouverture, there were bewildering intersections: “most perplexing of all to modern eyes, we know of Brazilian slaves who themselves owned slaves." Walvin also documents Britons who never set foot in slaveholding territories but yet owned slaves at long distance. For all its puzzles, the slave economy lasted for three centuries but then disappeared over the course of a few decades as abolitionist and liberation movements arose in the 19th century. Even so, notes the author in closing, slavery has never disappeared. In fact, he observes, given the lamentably massive number of impoverished people around the world, “present-day slaves cost only a fraction of the price of slaves bought in the US South before 1860.”

A solid contribution to studies of slavery in the Americas, providing useful rejoinders to other more comprehensive accounts.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64313-206-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

Did you like this book?

more