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ONCE WE WERE SLAVES

THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF A MULTIRACIAL JEWISH FAMILY

A richly contextual history of multiracial Jews and their travails and triumphs in the New World.

An intricate genealogy of a family of Sephardic Jews and their slaves who branched out from Barbados to embrace new opportunities in the early American republic.

In her latest deep excavation of Jewish history, Leibman—a professor of English and humanities at Reed College and winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Messianism, Secrecy and Mysticism (2012)—focuses on two children of Abraham Rodrigues Brandon, a prominent member of his Bridgetown synagogue who, during the early 19th century, became “the island’s wealthiest Jew.” Abraham’s concubine, Sarah Esther Lopez-Gill, who became the mother of his children, Sarah and Isaac, was an African woman enslaved in the neighboring household of the Lopez family, a branch of the Sephardic immigrants who came to Barbados after expulsion from Spain. Sarah and Isaac were both born as slaves and were christened. In 1801, upon the death of their grandfather, who left them an inheritance, they were able to buy their freedom and live in his house. Such circumstances were hardly the norm. “For enslaved people, the death of owners and white kin was an anxious business,” writes the author. “One cross word, and lives could be ruined. Whites were often un­predictable in their affections.” From this time, Leibman follows Sarah and Isaac through their lives, first to Suriname, where Isaac was circumcised and they became “nação, Jews of the Portuguese nation.” Sarah was sent to be schooled in London, and she eventually married New York merchant Joshua Moses. “Their romance,” writes Leibman, “would spawn a new dynasty.” Isaac also journeyed out of the Caribbean, and the ensuing tangle of genealogy is both telling and mystifying, as the family struggled, fought for civil rights, and joined the thriving Jewish communities in New York and Philadelphia, leaving a lasting legacy. The author includes relevant artifacts, such as photos of the intertwined families.

A richly contextual history of multiracial Jews and their travails and triumphs in the New World.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-753047-4

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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