A nuanced study of the illusory, troubling early arguments over emancipation and integration.




How the concept of “separate but equal” emerged from whites’ inability to envision full civil rights for blacks and Native Americans after emancipation.

The failed universal assertion that “all men are created equal” continues to haunt America’s history of racial relations. In this compelling work of wide research, Guyatt (History/Univ. of Cambridge; Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607-1876, 2007, etc.) delineates how the subtle arguments over colonization and removal were actually articulated by progressive reformers from the earliest era. Contradictions abound: while most early framers and “liberals” did generally believe in the Enlightenment notion that nonwhites could achieve their full potential when offered the proper environment, reformers could not get past what they saw as slavery’s “degradation” of the human condition, thus hindering blacks and Native Americans from being incorporated as full citizens. This “degradation” occurred from integration among whites—especially as Indians were continually pushed out of their land, corrupted by alcohol and treachery, and blacks were abused and ill-educated—and thus the happy ideal of “one nation only” began to give way to visions of separate colonies for nonwhites to keep them from being “ruined” by the majority. Guyatt points out how the War of 1812 brought home the “recognition among liberal Americans that the United States itself had become the obstacle to Indian advancement.” Moreover, despite early experiments, anti-slavery reformers such as missionaries and magazine editors could not stomach the thought of “amalgamation,” as was practiced in the South as an open secret. As a British historian, the author brings up some fascinating comparative examples—e.g., prominent reformer Granville Sharp’s efforts to establish a free-labor colony in Sierra Leone. As a popular solution to “the negro problem,” the influential American Colonization Society was supported by the most freethinking men of the day—e.g., James Monroe, the Marquis de Lafayette—yet it could not overcome fears of the social consequences of abolition.

A nuanced study of the illusory, troubling early arguments over emancipation and integration.

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-01841-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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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