A valuable account, closing with a moving précis of the fate of the Pearl’s people and their descendants.

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ESCAPE ON THE PEARL

THE HEROIC BID FOR FREEDOM ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

Readable re-creation of a little-known episode in the long struggle to abolish slavery in America.

The residents of Washington, D.C., may have been torn on the issue of slavery, but in 1848, the “curious institution” was still practiced there; moreover, former Labor Department attorney Ricks writes, the Upper South—the District, Virginia and Maryland—was increasingly important as a source of slaves for the Deep South, in what Ricks calls “the internal slave trade.” Punishment for those who aided runaway slaves was severe, and it was thus quite daring of the abolitionists and slaves alike to undertake an attempted mass escape on the schooner Pearl. On April 15, 1848, about 70 slaves, including a tight-knit group of siblings, gathered in twos and threes on a dock not far from a slave pen just south of the National Mall—a prison that, Ricks notes, was promoted as “next to the copy of the Declaration of Independence also preserved here, the greatest curiosity to be seen at the Federal City.” The schooner slipped away and was well on course for the North and freedom, but then it hit one of the Chesapeake Bay’s frequent tempests; a pursuing posse of Georgetown deputies caught up with the Pearl, returned its cargo to slavery and jailed the would-be liberators, who, as Ricks notes, represented a widespread and varied group of interests throughout America, from country preachers to Wall Street magnates. Fittingly, since she now operates a historic-tours firm in Washington, Ricks has a keen eye for sites of the slaves’ voyage that can be visited today. She has an equally strong sense, well reflected in her pages, of how the now largely forgotten incident figured into the fierce pro- and antislavery battles of the time, which would soon end in civil war.

A valuable account, closing with a moving précis of the fate of the Pearl’s people and their descendants.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-078659-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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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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