Silent stone faces on a tunnel wall in Syracuse. Ruins of the first settlement of freed men and women discovered under a saltwater marsh in Florida. Family stories leading archaeologists to an upstairs room in a Brooklyn house, where slaves were hidden. These and other archaeological sites are examined in this study of the Underground Railroad. In addition, WPA slave narratives, spirituals, quilts, a ship’s logs, diaries, eyewitness accounts, and letters all demonstrate the ways historians learn about the past—from old-fashioned studies of 17th-century church records to the space-age technology of thermal imaging. An important point made here is that the Underground Railroad was not, as often portrayed, an organized network of routes delivering escaping slaves directly to freedom in the North. There were many “freedom roads” and many people with the courage to break the law and put their lives at risk in the name of liberty and democracy. The authors portray historians as detectives, solving mysteries when history keeps a secret, and point out that this is a “living” history, “waiting for a new generation of historians, archaeologists, and researchers to continue to tell this fascinating story.” Discussions of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott decision, John Brown, and the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law provide additional historical context. Well-written, well-documented, imaginatively arranged, this is a fascinating offering. Handsomely organized with ten black-and-white illustrations, maps, sidebars, photographs, and other archival material, this covers much ground while saying a great deal about the historian’s craft. An important addition to library collections and classroom units. (foreword, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8126-2673-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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This entry in the Oxford Portraits series is both very good and very useful. White presents a clear biography of the Supreme Court justice who served in the Civil War, studied law, and lived long in the shadow of his famous writer father of the same name. By the time he came to the Supreme Court, he was already 60 years old, but served for three decades more. White creates a vivid portrait of this scholarly and philosophical legal thinker while including rich details of his intellectual but reserved home life and his affectionate flirtations with many women. More than that, readers will absorb a history of the development of legal education, the growth of the Supreme Court, and how law unfolds as a study and a discipline. White is especially felicitous in explaining how the elegance of Holmes’s prose occasionally obscured the legal point he was making. Quotations from Holmes’s writing and picture captions with further details add to the story, and not the least of its accomplishments is to show a man who began the greatest of his career challenges when he was already perceived of as old. Excellent. (chronology, further reading, index) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 1999

ISBN: 0-19-511667-4

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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A vivid yet even-handed account of the ill-fated Donner Party—the California-bound wagon train that was forced by impassable snow to camp for the winter of 1846—47 on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, resorting to cannibalism when there was literally nothing else to eat. Calabro neither shrinks from nor sensationalizes this aspect of the story. Instead she places it in a carefully constructed context beginning with the start of the journey in Springfield, Illinois, on April 15, and chronicling each unfortunate decision along the way that ultimately led to the company’s entrapment. Making good use of primary sources, especially the letters and memoirs of Virginia Reed, who turned 13 on the journey, the author tells of Virginia’s excitement at having her own pony to ride west. However, she doesn’t limit the story to Virginia’s perspective, but skillfully profiles many members of the party, including Virginia’s dynamic father, James, who strongly favored taking an unproven shortcut, and the intelligent and perceptive Tamsen Donner, who was firmly against it. The result is a combination of well-researched factual detail, a gripping narrative, strong characterizations, and a thoughtful analysis of the historical record. (b&w photos, chronology, further reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-86610-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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