An impressive reckoning with a shameful piece of the past that “most natives of Forsyth would prefer to leave…scattered in...




A history of white supremacy’s endurance in a Georgia county.

In 1977, Phillips (English/Drew Univ.; Elegy for a Broken Machine: Poems, 2015, etc.) moved with his family from Atlanta to a small town in Forsyth County, Georgia, hoping to enjoy the simple pleasures of a quieter life. What the young boy discovered was “a world where nobody liked outsiders,” most especially, and vehemently, blacks. The color line was drawn “between all that was good and cherished and beloved and everything they thought evil, and dirty, and despised.” In an effort to understand the world in which he grew up, the author has uncovered a shocking story as heartbreaking as it is infuriating. Although in the minority, blacks had long co-existed with whites in Forsyth County, some as slaves, many as landowners and small-business owners. But in September 1912, after a white woman was found beaten and raped, virulent racism erupted, resulting in the lynching of one of three black suspects and, in the weeks that followed, the purging of all blacks—more than 1,000—who lived in the county. Night riders fired shots into doors, threw rocks through windows, demolished homes with dynamite, and burned churches. By the end of October, the black population was gone, and any who ever appeared in the county—through temerity or mistake—were violently run off. “Racial purity is Forsyth’s security,” whites proclaimed. Some black landowners managed to sell their property to whites before they left, but most abandoned their homes, knowing that their land would be taken over by whites claiming it for themselves. Throughout the book, Phillips successfully contextualizes Forsyth in American racism’s long history. After Woodrow Wilson was elected on promises of “fair dealing” for blacks, he unapologetically enforced segregation. Decades later, in 1987, when civil rights groups staged a march through Forsyth, they were met with violence—an episode the author recounts with moving intimacy.

An impressive reckoning with a shameful piece of the past that “most natives of Forsyth would prefer to leave…scattered in the state’s dusty archives or safely hidden in plain sight.”

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-29301-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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