RUNAWAY SLAVES

REBELS ON THE PLANTATION, 1790--1860

In a searing indictment of plantation life in the antebellum South, noted historian Franklin (professor emeritus at Duke Univ.) and Schweninger (History/Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro) use primary documents such as court records, newspapers, and letters of contemporaries, including slaves themselves, to show that slaves often resisted their condition by means direct and indirect, and frequently to the point of running away. Historians traditionally have depicted antebellum plantation slaves as docile and resigned to their fate. Indeed, early studies of American slavery, such as Ulrich Phillips’s Life and Labor in the Old South (1929), romanticized plantation slavery and even portrayed slaves as generally contented with their lot. While modern scholarship has exposed the harsh aspects of plantation life, the image of the slave as passive victim has survived. The reality was vastly different, say the authors; quiet resistance and open rebellion were common occurrences on the typical Southern plantation, and the average plantation owner had several runaways every year. In a meticulous survey of primary sources, the authors examine multiple aspects of slave resistance, including passive resistance and outright racial violence on the plantation; the motives of runaways, which included, commonly, the desire to be reunited with family members; and typical opportunities for running away, such as the death of the master. Runaways faced tremendous obstacles, the authors point out: they had to travel hundreds of miles to freedom amid a well-organized system of slave catching and retrieval that was so efficient and vicious that it even enslaved free blacks, and runaways faced drastic penalties, including physical punishment and even death, if caught. Most were caught, but thousands continued to seek their freedom, and many made it, whether alone, through the solicitude of free blacks or by the Underground Railroad of clandestine assistance, to the promised land of the free states or Canada. A well-crafted and carefully researched account that opens a new window onto a dark and painful chapter in American history.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-19-508449-7

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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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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