A mesmerizing, rarely mentioned piece of labor history, crackingly told. (10 b&w photographs, not seen)

THE BATTLE OF BLAIR MOUNTAIN

THE STORY OF AMERICA’S LARGEST LABOR UPRISING

A stunning re-creation of the great West Virginia uprising of 1921, when some 10,000 armed miners confronted coal operators and their hired guns in an attempt to unionize.

After WWI, President Wilson’s New Freedom was out, as were idealism, the rights of labor, and dissent. “The conservative trend was also marked by an enhanced reverence for free enterprise, its leaders and all their works, an attitude which served to reinforce the resistance of these worthies to the demands of labor,” writes former political correspondent Shogan (War Without End, 2002, etc.; Government/Johns Hopkins), sounding more like Big Bill Haywood than the free-thinking historian he mostly proves to be in these impassioned pages. Inflation was wrecking the old wage structure; demand was falling in the postwar economy. The United Mine Workers (UMW) had adopted the new work-within-the system unionism of Samuel Gompers, but in West Virginia, a more radical faction also had a change in the political landscape on their minds. It was obvious, Shogan writes, that all the West Virginia coal mines had to be unionized, or the nonunion mines would offset the production stoppages of the striking mines, giving the union a case of the dwindles. Wilson's swing to the right, the difficulties of unionizing the disparate West Virginia working classes, the role of federal troops, ancient enmities, and conspicuous actors like Sid Hatfield (yes, of those Hatfields), who turned a blood feud into union resistance, are among the volatile ingredients Shogan blends into a zesty narrative stew. He suggests that America’s “promise of opportunity, individual freedom and fairness under the law” led the miners to lay down their arms, but leaves open the possibility that they may have simply had a good sense of bad timing. Indeed, the time would never be right in West Virginia for social justice, though unions prompted employers to throw the populace a few economic sops.

A mesmerizing, rarely mentioned piece of labor history, crackingly told. (10 b&w photographs, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8133-4096-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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