An urgent, brilliant work of historical excavation.

WAKE

THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF WOMEN-LED SLAVE REVOLTS

A vividly illustrated account of Black women rebels that combines elements of memoir, archival research, and informed imaginings of its subjects' lives.

A former tenants rights lawyer, Hall pursued a doctorate in history to uncover America's warped justice system. "In order to understand our experiences as Black women today,” she writes, “I had to study slavery.” This collaboration with illustrator Martínez focuses on two women-led revolts in New York City and uprisings during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Of a 1712 revolt, Hall finds in court records the first names of four women involved and sentenced to execution; none are quoted in transcripts. "This is one way history erases us….You think you are reading an accurate chronicle written at the time, but if who we are and what we care about are deemed irrelevant, it won't be in there,” writes Hall. The author also examines a 1708 revolt led by a woman referred to in documents as the “Negro Fiend”; she was burned at the stake. The granddaughter of slaves, the author seeks to honor her ancestors by filling in the silent record. Facing difficulty accessing records and digesting their information, Hall called upon her deceased grandmother for strength. In London, Hall delved into archives of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, reading hundreds of slave-ship logs. Revolts at sea were largely a suicide mission fueled by slaves' desire to "take their captors with them to the bottom of the ocean." Research shows that the more women onboard a slave ship, the more likely a revolt. Hall believes that this was because women were mostly kept unchained and on deck, where it was easier for crew members to rape them; this also gave them access to weapons. The black-and-white illustrations nicely complement the text and elevate the artfulness and the power of the book, which begins and ends with scenes depicting women-led revolts aboard a ship Hall calls the Unity.

An urgent, brilliant work of historical excavation.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982115-18-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A vital book for any library or classroom—and for foot soldiers in the fight for racial justice.

A BLACK WOMEN'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A compact, exceptionally diverse introduction to the history of black women in America, rooted in “everyday heroism.”

As Berry (History/Univ. of Texas; The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, From Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation, 2017, etc.) and Gross (History/Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick; Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex and Violence in America, 2016, etc.) persuasively argue, black women have “significantly shaped” our nation—and fought for their rights—throughout every period of American history. Yet their contributions often have been overlooked or underappreciated. In the latest book in the publisher’s ReVisioning American History series, the authors offer a selective but wide-ranging search-and-rescue mission for black female activists, trailblazers, and others who have left a mark. In the first chapter, they introduce Isabel de Olvera, who became one of the first black women to set foot on what is now American soil after joining an expedition from Mexico in the early 17th century. From there, Berry and Gross proceed chronologically, opening each chapter with a vignette about a signal figure such as Shirley Chisholm, the daughter of Caribbean immigrants who became the first black female member of Congress. Along the way, the authors frequently discuss members of traditionally underrepresented groups, among them the lesbian blues singer Gladys Bentley and the conjoined twins Millie and Christine McKoy, whose exploitation by mid-19th-century showmen suggests the perils faced by black women with disabilities. The result is a narrative that highlights both setbacks and achievements in many spheres—sports, business, education, the arts, military service, and more. While their overall approach is celebratory, Berry and Gross also deal frankly with morally complex topics, such as women who committed infanticide rather than see a child enslaved. Amid their gains, black women face enduring challenges that include police brutality and other forms of “misogynoir,” or “gendered, anti-Black violence.” For anyone hoping to topple the remaining barriers, this book is a font of inspiration.

A vital book for any library or classroom—and for foot soldiers in the fight for racial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8070-3355-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the...

AN AFRICAN AMERICAN AND LATINX HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A concise, alternate history of the United States “about how people across the hemisphere wove together antislavery, anticolonial, pro-freedom, and pro-working-class movements against tremendous obstacles.”

In the latest in the publisher’s ReVisioning American History series, Ortiz (History/Univ. of Florida; Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920, 2005, etc.) examines U.S. history through the lens of African-American and Latinx activists. Much of the American history taught in schools is limited to white America, leaving out the impact of non-European immigrants and indigenous peoples. The author corrects that error in a thorough look at the debt of gratitude we owe to the Haitian Revolution, the Mexican War of Independence, and the Cuban War of Independence, all struggles that helped lead to social democracy. Ortiz shows the history of the workers for what it really was: a fatal intertwining of slavery, racial capitalism, and imperialism. He states that the American Revolution began as a war of independence and became a war to preserve slavery. Thus, slavery is the foundation of American prosperity. With the end of slavery, imperialist America exported segregation laws and labor discrimination abroad. As we moved into Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, we stole their land for American corporations and used the Army to enforce draconian labor laws. This continued in the South and in California. The rise of agriculture could not have succeeded without cheap labor. Mexican workers were often preferred because, if they demanded rights, they could just be deported. Convict labor worked even better. The author points out the only way success has been gained is by organizing; a great example was the “Day without Immigrants” in 2006. Of course, as Ortiz rightly notes, much more work is necessary, especially since Jim Crow and Juan Crow are resurging as each political gain is met with “legal” countermeasures.

A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the United States Constitution.”

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1310-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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