A massive story of impressive research presented in sometimes-erratic fashion.

THE AMERICAN SLAVE COAST

A HISTORY OF THE SLAVE-BREEDING INDUSTRY

A sprawling study of the lucrative slave economy of the South, from importation to breeding.

In 1808, the importation of slaves was banned in the United States for protectionist rather than humanitarian measures, signaling a changeover to a domestic slave trade. This husband-and-wife team of accomplished authors and researchers—Ned (The World that Made New Orleans, 2008), and Constance, aka novelist Constance Ash—see that year as key in the transformation of African-American culture. The authors exhaustively delineate the many layers of this horrific story, and they focus on what the numbers reveal: while about 389,000 kidnapped Africans reached the ports of the United States, mostly before independence, by 1860, the number of enslaved persons had grown to 4 million African-Americans. The scramble for labor spurred a slave-breeding economy—epitomized by the fictionalized “stud-farm plantation” in the wildly popular work Mandingo—in which women were breeders (“each prime field wench produced five to ten marketable children during her lifetime”) and men, the “stock Negro,” where children and parents were separated and frequently resold, and many were trafficked into new territories southward and westward. “Increase” was the message on the plantations, in all senses of the word. In a work of ambitious breadth, the authors first look at the realities of this breeding economy, in which people were money and children were interest. Then they delve into the early evolution of slavery into the Chesapeake and the Lowcountry and study how all the necessary accouterments allowed slavery to prevail, including the running of newspaper ads for sales and runaways, the rise of the Jacksonian “democracy” promising poor whites the possibility of becoming slave owners one day, and specific companies and businesses that profited mightily. This well-documented, occasionally choppy book will be valuable to historians and scholars but may prove daunting for general readers.

A massive story of impressive research presented in sometimes-erratic fashion.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61374-820-6

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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