A comprehensively researched and absorbing study of a freed slave’s life.




A black soldier fights in the War of Independence and later finds fortune in Newark.

In his nonfiction debut, Ayim surveys the life and times of “Jack” Cudjo Banquante, a Revolutionary warrior for a cause to which he owed little and a horticultural importer in Newark after the conflict ended. Born the child of slaves around 1723 and probably sold by Dutch traders, Cudjo was purchased by Benjamin Coe of Newark and sent into combat in the owner’s stead. As a member of the 1st Battalion, 1st Company of the Revolutionary Army, Cudjo clashed with British forces at Yorktown, Valley Forge, and alongside 800 other black soldiers at Monmouth, the largest battle of the war. Despite the fact that Cudjo’s “military record is as obscure as the records of many slaves who sacrificed limbs and souls during the Revolutionary War,” Ayim proceeds to weigh all the period documentation about the hero: his service, his later career as a cultivator and merchant of exotic plants, and his marriage and progeny. Thrust into the worldwide nightmare of chattel slavery, Cudjo fought bravely in a war he didn’t choose and later became so admirable around town that “even children born in slavery were named after him.” More than an account of one man’s struggles, Ayim’s book is an engrossing primer on the Akan people of West Africa—the horrors they either died from or endured in the trans-Atlantic slave trade—and a meditation on this brutal institution in the Northeast, a region that likes to fancy itself untainted by such barbarity. Of Akan heritage himself, the author proves himself a worthy guide and admirable documentarian on the later dispersion of Cudjo’s family as well as the ensuing history of Northeastern slavery. Although “the state of New Jersey officially abolished further importation of slavery in 1786,” Ayim tells readers, “yet 74 years later (1860) eighteen slaves were recorded in the census.” Subsequent researchers will likely be obliged to the author for the hours he spent fishing pearls from the archives, and readers with an interest in American history of all kinds will encounter a story they should know.

A comprehensively researched and absorbing study of a freed slave’s life.

Pub Date: March 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4750-7378-2

Page Count: 142

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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

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