Informative but often unwieldy history of a pivotal period for race relations in the American South.




A Reconstruction-era kidnapping incident in the Deep South gets put under the historical microscope.

Ross (History/Univ. of Maryland; Justice of Shattered Dreams: Samuel Freeman Miller and the Supreme Court during the Civil War Era, 2003) calls his legal nonfiction tale “a work of micro-history….It mines a single historical moment for insights into both the history of New Orleans and the Reconstruction era.” The author relates the now-obscure 1870 incident of the kidnapping of Mollie Digby, the young child of Irish immigrants Thomas and Bridgette Digby, and the subsequent trial of the two African-American kidnapping suspects, Creoles Ellen Follin and Louisa Murray. The event was to prove a watershed moment, however short-lived, in the 19th-century history of racial justice in the American Deep South. Ross also follows the fortunes of men like John Baptiste Jourdain, an African-American detective assigned to the Digby case, whose life would be significantly transformed forever by it. Ross’ historical work here is commendable, but what the book lacks is a sure-footed sense of dramatic pacing: The courtroom scenario that dominates the book is simply too long and drawn out, especially considering that the fate of Mollie Digby is made clear early on. Much of the book is centered on simply learning the motives for the kidnapping and whether Follin and Murray would be exonerated or found guilty by a multiracial New Orleans jury. Importantly though, Ross does show how the trial was used as a source of exploitation for anti-integrationist Southern politicians in the late 19th century who would later help usher in the nefarious Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” laws. “Because all black people were now free,” writes the author, “newspaper editors warned readers to expect ever more horrific crimes committed by black individuals unless the perpetrators were found and incarcerated.”

Informative but often unwieldy history of a pivotal period for race relations in the American South.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-19-977880-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2014

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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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