FREEDOM ROADS

SEARCHING FOR THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

FIVE THOUSAND YEARS OF SLAVERY

Sandwiched between telling lines from the epic of Gilgamesh (“…the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride, / he uses her, no one dares to oppose him”) and the exposure of a migrant worker–trafficking ring in Florida in the mid-1990s, this survey methodically presents both a history of the slave trade and what involuntary servitude was and is like in a broad range of times and climes. Though occasionally guilty of overgeneralizing, the authors weave their narrative around contemporary accounts and documented incidents, supplemented by period images or photos and frequent sidebar essays. Also, though their accounts of slavery in North America and the abolition movement in Britain are more detailed than the other chapters, the practice’s past and present in Africa, Asia and the Pacific—including the modern “recruitment” of child soldiers and conditions in the Chinese laogai (forced labor camps)—do come in for broad overviews. For timeliness, international focus and, particularly, accuracy, this leaves Richard Watkins’ Slavery: Bondage Throughout History (2001) in the dust as a first look at a terrible topic. (timeline, index; notes and sources on an associated website) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-88776-914-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy.

BONNIE AND CLYDE

THE MAKING OF A LEGEND

A portrait of two victims of the Great Depression whose taste for guns and fast cars led to short careers in crime but longer ones as legends.

Blumenthal (Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2016, etc.) makes a determined effort to untangle a mare’s nest of conflicting eyewitness accounts, purple journalism, inaccurate police reports, and self-serving statements from relatives and cohorts of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Though the results sometimes read as dry recitations of names and indistinguishable small towns, she makes perceptive guesses about what drove them and why they have become iconic figures, along with retracing their early lives, two-year crime spree, and subsequent transformations into doomed pop-culture antiheroes. She does not romanticize the duo—giving many of their murder victims faces through individual profiles, for instance, and describing wounds in grisly detail—but does convincingly argue that their crimes and characters (particularly Bonnie’s) were occasionally exaggerated. Blumenthal also wrenchingly portrays the desperation that their displaced, impoverished families must have felt while pointedly showing how an overtaxed, brutal legal system can turn petty offenders into violent ones. A full version of Bonnie’s homespun ballad “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” and notes on the subsequent lives of significant relatives, accomplices, and lawmen join meaty lists of sources and interviews at the end.

Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy. (photos, timeline, author’s note, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47122-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more