An excellent work of vast research that hauntingly delineates the “intimate daily savageries of the slave trade.”

THE LEDGER AND THE CHAIN

HOW DOMESTIC SLAVE TRADERS SHAPED AMERICA

A chilling account of the metastatic growth of America’s internal slave trade in the early 1800s.

Rothman, the chair of the history department at the University of Alabama and author of two previous books on slavery in the U.S., employs his wide breadth of knowledge about the era to vividly depict the human and economic impacts of the domestic slave trade as it burgeoned in the early 19th century. Digging deeply into the horrific details of the hugely profitable slave-trafficking business of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard in Natchez, Mississippi, and Alexandria, Virginia, where they based their operations from the mid-1820s, the author clearly shows the mechanics behind the exponential growth of slavery in the South as it rose to meet the demands of a growing nation, financially, politically, geographically, and demographically. “Their America incentivized entrepreneurialism, financial risk, and racial slavery, and no one made more of the junction among those things than they did,” writes Rothman in this meticulously documented history. “They became some of the richest men in the country as a result.” Expanding from the successful model of slave trader Austin Woolfolk, who worked out of Baltimore, Franklin, Armfield, and Ballard took out ads, bargained in taverns, and bought enslaved people and took them to New Orleans, Charleston, and other cities in order to sell them for a profit. During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the clearing of Native peoples from their lands allowed for a massive increase in the production of cotton and sugar as well as the proliferation of banks and technological advances like the cotton gin—all of which required a seemingly “bottomless” supply of free labor. As they grew their businesses, these men “helped foster something resembling a national market in commoditized human beings that paralleled the development of national markets in an array of other goods.”

An excellent work of vast research that hauntingly delineates the “intimate daily savageries of the slave trade.”

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-1661-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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