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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

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Questlove’s instincts as a superfan and artist take this history beyond the hype to something very special.

A memorable, masterful history of the first 50 years of an indelible American art form.

While historians often cast themselves as omniscient in their works, delivering facts and stories as important without acknowledging the impact of their own experiences on the narrative process, Questlove—drummer, DJ, music historian, and author of Mo’ Meta Blues, Creative Quest, and Music Is History—is forthcoming about the fact that he experienced music differently as he grew older. “I wasn’t sitting down for five hours listening to them over and over and over again, trying to unpack every nuance from every corner,” he writes, recalling his feelings decades into his relationship with the genre. “But I was—I am—a DJ, which meant that I had a professional interest in excavating the songs that worked.” The author’s observations spanning the entirety of hip-hop’s history are consistently illuminating—e.g., connecting its shift in five-year increments to the dominant drug of the period, from crack to sizzurp to opioids. However, it’s his personal connection to certain eras that make his latest book stand out. Questlove considers the late 1980s and early ’90s as the “golden age of hip-hop, when innovative MCs and innovative DJs seemed to spring up every few months, and classic albums regularly sprouted on the vine.” That era—filled with masterpieces from Public Enemy, De La Soul, and N.W.A.—is universally revered, but Questlove also recognizes that it coincides with the years between high school and when he officially became an artist—a time when he was immersed in finding inspiration and understanding the construction of hip-hop. While the author’s knowledge of hip-hop is as deep as any musicologist, it’s his passion for certain artists and songs that sets him apart.

Questlove’s instincts as a superfan and artist take this history beyond the hype to something very special.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780374614072

Page Count: 352

Publisher: AUWA/MCD

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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