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 welcome new version of a publication that is no less important now than it was in 1967.

THE ESSENTIAL KERNER COMMISSION REPORT

A timely distilled version of the powerful report on racism in the U.S.

Created by Lyndon Johnson’s executive order in 1967, the Kerner Commission was convened in response to inner-city riots in cities like Newark and Detroit, and its findings have renewed relevance in the wake of the George Floyd verdict and other recent police brutality cases. The report, named for Otto Kerner, the chairman of the commission and then governor of Illinois, explored the systemic reasons why an “apocalyptic fury” broke out that summer even in the wake of the passage of significant civil rights and voting acts—a response with striking echoes in recent events across the country. In this edited and contextualized version, New Yorker staff writer Cobb, with the assistance of Guariglia, capably demonstrates the continued relevance and prescience of the commission’s findings on institutionalized discriminatory policies in housing, education, employment, and the media. The commission was not the first to address racial violence in the century, and it would not be the last, but the bipartisan group of 11 members—including two Blacks and one woman—was impressively thorough in its investigation of the complex overarching social and economic issues at play. “The members were not seeking to understand a singular incident of disorder,” writes Cobb, “but the phenomenon of rioting itself.” Johnson wanted to know what happened, why it happened, and what could be done so it doesn’t happen “again and again.” Of course, it has happened again and again, and many of the report’s recommendations remain unimplemented. This version of the landmark report features a superb introduction by Cobb and a closing section of frequently asked questions—e.g., “How come nothing has been done about these problems?” The book contains plenty of fodder for crucial national conversations and many excellent ideas for much-needed reforms that could be put into place now.

A welcome new version of a publication that is no less important now than it was in 1967.

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-892-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A fiery, eloquent call to action for White men who want to be on the right side of history.

LETTERS TO MY WHITE MALE FRIENDS

A Black man speaks hard truths to White men about their failure to dismantle systemic racism.

A “child of the Black bourgeoisie,” journalist Ross first learned “the shadow history of Black revolutionary struggle” in college. He accepted that he “directly benefited from the struggle that generations of Black folks had died in the name of, yet I wasn’t doing anything to help those who hadn’t benefited.” The author calls the White men of his generation, Gen X, to also recognize their complicity and miseducation. “We were fed cherry-picked narratives that confirmed the worthlessness of Black life,” he writes, “The euphemistic ‘culture of poverty,’ not systemic oppression, was to blame for the conditions in which so many Black people lived.” The story that White people have been told about Black people is “missing a major chapter,” and Ross thoroughly elucidates that chapter with a sweeping deep dive into decades of American social history and politics that is at once personal, compelling, and damning. Through a series of well-crafted personal letters, the author advises White men to check their motivations and “interrogate the allegedly self-evident, ‘commonsense’ values and beliefs” that perpetuate inequality and allow them to remain blissfully unaware of the insidiousness of racism and the ways they benefit from it. Ross condemns the “pathological unwillingness to connect the past with the present” and boldly avoids the comfortable “both sides” rhetoric that makes anti-racism work more palatable to White people. “It is on you,” he writes, “to challenge the color-blind narratives your parents peddle.” The letters are consistently compelling, covering wide ground that includes the broken criminal justice system, gentrification, and the problem with framing equity work as “charity.” Finally, Ross offers practical guidance and solutions for White men to employ at work, in their communities, and within themselves. Pair this one with Emmanuel Acho’s Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man.

A fiery, eloquent call to action for White men who want to be on the right side of history.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-27683-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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