A welcome addition to the literature of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, and important for students of the civil-rights...

CAPITOL MEN

THE EPIC STORY OF RECONSTRUCTION THROUGH THE LIVES OF THE FIRST BLACK CONGRESSMEN

Impeccably written study of the brief post–Civil War period in which African-Americans were admitted to Congress—with the door subsequently closed to them for the next century.

From a white Southern loyalist’s point of view, writes Dray (Stealing God’s Thunder: Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Rod and the Invention of America, 2005, etc.), military defeat was bad enough, let alone what a Union sympathizer called “the elevation of the free negro to equal political power.” The first to be so elevated, at the local and then national level, were a fascinating lot. Some of them, such as South Carolinian Robert Smalls, had engaged in acts of resistance during the secession and courted death for their crimes of sedition; others were of mixed race and comparatively well educated, such as the Mississippian reformer John Roy Lynch, “distinguished in appearance, possessing an innate gentlemanly reserve”; others were freed slaves with few advantages aside from a willingness to take on the job. None were the illiterate sock puppets of anti-Reconstructionist myth. Bringing them into power was a complex and daunting task, opposed by many in both the North and the South. In that light, Dray writes sympathetically but critically of Andrew Johnson, the Unionist Southerner, “a stubborn loner never adept at conciliatory politics,” under whose watch Reconstruction disintegrated. The denouement of Dray’s story is dispiriting. It finds Smalls, that great hero, ordered to sit in a segregated Jim Crow train cabin, a “dirty coach with cigar stubs on the floor and broken windows,” and the other freshmen congressmen not much better treated. The humiliation of Smalls took place in South Carolina in 1904. But then, as Dray notes, the same had happened to him in Philadelphia during the war—racism was not the exclusive domain of the South.

A welcome addition to the literature of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, and important for students of the civil-rights movement and its origins.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-618-56370-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2008

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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