A wise and sensitive appreciation of the intersecting careers of two giants of American history.

DOUGLASS AND LINCOLN

HOW A REVOLUTIONARY BLACK LEADER AND A RELUCTANT LIBERATOR STRUGGLED TO END SLAVERY AND SAVE THE UNION

An insightful look at the sometimes uneasy collaboration, between the agitator and the emancipator, to end slavery and win the Civil War.

Had Lincoln died in 1857, the undistinguished, one-term ex-congressman and prairie lawyer would have been barely a footnote to history. Not so Frederick Douglass. By then, Douglass’s escape from slavery, his autobiography and his extensive lecturing had made him an international figure, perhaps the era’s foremost abolitionist. Amidst threats of Southern secession, Douglass declined to support Lincoln’s 1860 presidential bid, calling him “an excellent slave hound.” Douglass presciently assessed the contours of the coming Civil War (during which he met Lincoln three times) and saw how the “inexorable logic of events” would propel most of his activist agenda. Though slow to emancipate, reluctant to employ black troops and unwilling to make any firm commitment to giving the black man voting rights, Lincoln followed through on all, sometimes with Douglass’s advice and help. By 1864, Lincoln regarded Douglass as perhaps “the most meritorious man in the United States.” Understanding if not approving of Lincoln’s political high-wire act and recognizing that neither emancipation nor military victory was ever preordained, Douglass came to view the president as “swift, zealous, radical, and determined.” The Kendricks (Sarah’s Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America, 2004) beautifully assess the political and moral, and often conflicting, agendas of each man, but they excel, particularly in their treatment of Douglass, at personalizing one of the history’s most unlikely and effective political alliances. Along with James Oakes’s estimable The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (2007), the Kendricks testify to the increasing interest in and historical imperative for linking in the popular imagination these two intensely private, entirely self-made men.

A wise and sensitive appreciation of the intersecting careers of two giants of American history.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1523-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2007

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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