A convincing demonstration of the close links between capitalism and the unconscionable trade in human beings.

A tale of money and enslavement on the streets of New York.

In the early 19th century, writes historian Wells, New York was the Northern city most closely aligned with the slave states and the institution of slavery, “due in large part to the lucrative trade between Manhattan banks and insurance companies and the slaveholders of the cotton South.” Where many Northerners refused to follow the demands of the Fugitive Slave Act, it was big business for a group that abolitionist David Ruggles called the New York Kidnapping Club, “a powerful and far-reaching collection of police officers, political authorities, judges, lawyers, and slave traders who terrorized the city’s black residents throughout the early nineteenth century.” Members of the club thought nothing of dispatching freeborn Black New Yorkers to the South to be impressed into slavery. Black children in particular often disappeared from the streets only to turn up on plantations in the South—and later in Cuba and other international slave markets. The work of the kidnappers was made easier by a corrupt police department—and at one point two corrupt and competing police forces—and the fact that both sides of Manhattan were lined with wharves filled with ships that came and went. The author populates his pages with characters who are little known to history, such as the city’s recorder, Richard Riker, who “for nearly thirty years on behalf of southern slaveholding claimants sent untold numbers of people into bondage.” Small wonder that when he died, the newspapers of Charleston and New Orleans published obituaries. Ruggles should also be better known. The narrative suffers from a certain sluggishness and needless rhetorical flourishes—“As the train gained momentum on its tracks, Ruggles took his seat, hopeful that the momentum to end slavery was finally gaining steam among the hectic citizens of the northeast”—but it’s a story that deserves to be told.

A convincing demonstration of the close links between capitalism and the unconscionable trade in human beings.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-56858-752-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bold Type Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020


Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974


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

Close Quickview