A clearly written, interesting history in need of a sharper focus and stronger structure.




Through his examination of one Southern town, Swanson discusses labor and racial issues that affected the American South during the period between Reconstruction and the ’60s.

The straightforward, chronological narrative opens with Confederate president Jefferson Davis seeking to escape Gen. Sherman’s army and fleeing to Danville, Va., which he briefly makes the capital of the seceded states. The South fell soon after Davis’ arrival in Danville, and the town continued to be a hotly contested region for much of its history. The first chapter explains the events leading up to the Danville Riot, in which racial tensions exploded into gunfire in the streets. Swanson relates this fascinating topic with a nonjudgmental eye—his coldly neutral examination of Southern race relations seems, if not supportive of white supremacy, at least noncommittal. This tone continues for the rest of the work, which follows the rise of the textile industry and attempts to unionize factory workers, many of whom had moved to Danville after their farms had failed. While Swanson writes competently and chose a fascinating, little-known facet of Southern history, the book lacks a central theme. There are compelling character sketches, articles and transcripts but no internal structure to tie them together. The book provides an interesting look at one Southern town, but only occasionally provides a broader view of its connection to the South or the nation as a whole, and vice versa. The work also feels simultaneously too broad and too narrow—Swanson intends to cover the history of Danville, but he ultimately focuses on the impact of the textile industry, leaving the reader to wonder about other aspects of the town’s past that are only briefly touched upon.

A clearly written, interesting history in need of a sharper focus and stronger structure.

Pub Date: March 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-1449988050

Page Count: 219

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2010

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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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