An intriguing, immodest proposal that itself warrants discussion—and action.




Inspired by South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, civil-rights attorney Ifill (Law/Univ. of Maryland) offers a new approach to addressing the history of lynching in America.

Concentrating her case on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a place culturally, socially and geographically linked to the South, Ifill begins with what should have been a slam-dunk moment: a recent proposal to erect a statue in Easton to the onetime slave and emancipator Frederick Douglass, “Talbot County’s most prestigious and perhaps only internationally known native son.” The proposal instantly divided Easton along racial lines, with one white veterans’ group insisting that the courthouse lawn was reserved for statues of those who had given their lives for their country. Douglass arguably had, but the most prominent monument nearby was given to the 84 men of the county who had died fighting for the Confederacy. The divide runs deep and deeper, as Ifill shows, examining the history of the lynching of black men for all the usual reasons—mostly for allegedly raping a white woman or even whistling at or looking at one. One notorious case in 1919, involving one such “rape,” concerned a man named Isaiah Fountain, who narrowly escaped lynching only to be hanged before the same courthouse where Douglass had been jailed for being a runaway; the supposed victim gave testimony that “would not stand up in court today, or even in 1919, but for the fact that Fountain was black.” That was enough, and it was enough in many other cases in Talbot County and its neighbors. One legacy of all this, argues Ifill, is the difficulty blacks and whites have even of discussing it, since few really want to remember what for most on both sides of the divide were traumatizing events. Yet remembering is essential.

An intriguing, immodest proposal that itself warrants discussion—and action.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2007

ISBN: 0-8070-0987-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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