SLAVERY IN AMERICA by Robert A. Liston

SLAVERY IN AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Rhetorically, the case against slavery in America; ironically, not the best possible case for the blacks: that it's based on a CBS Special may account for the shrillness and clumsiness but the author must share the blame for signs of unconscious bias and/or inadequate knowledge. African culture, institutions, etc. are seen chiefly in terms of European: the only illustration of African art is paired with a derivative Picasso; animism (not so identified) ""made it easy for the Africans to embrace the Moslem and Christian religions. Another god, another explanation, couldn't do any harm."" An essay could be written about the misconstructions there, but more to the point is the relentless stress on ""dehumanization,"" ""humiliation,"" ""degradation,"" to the extent that the slave appears only as victim (his name is a mockery, his language corrupted, etc.); whereas Walter Goodman's Black Bondage (1969, 517, J-211) views slave life in its several aspects (no kudos, of course), the pertinent chapter here treats of ""Toil, Pain, Squalor and Privation."" Also, the Goodman draws heavily on slave accounts while Liston avows that ""Only rarely, notably Douglass', were the accounts that do exist written by the slaves themselves"" (although later he quotes from Josiah Henson). Neither is it true that ""only in recent years have historians and other scholars begun to discover and report what slavery truly was in America. . . ""; their work, especially that of the blacks, just did not receive due attention. A book that purports to be purgative should do a thorough job of it. From the slave trade to emancipation, there is nothing here that is not more discerningly discussed elsewhere.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1970
Publisher: McGraw-Hill