A deft handling of overlooked history and a useful close study of data, documents and real lives.

MORE THAN FREEDOM

FIGHTING FOR BLACK CITIZENSHIP IN A WHITE REPUBLIC, 1829-1889

A searching history of the efforts by African-Americans before and after the Civil War to liberate their people and to stake a claim as equals in the land they helped build.

Until the Thirteenth Amendment was enacted in 1865, writes Kantrowitz (History/Univ. of Wisconsin), “nearly 90 percent of African-Americans lived in slavery, and blackness was intimately intertwined with lifetime hereditary bondage.” So intimately was slavery equated with being black, in fact, that even well-meaning whites had trouble putting African Americans on equal footing—e.g., African-American lecturers on the abolitionist circuit were paired with white lecturers but were paid less for the same work of rallying the audience to the cause of freedom. “Displays of autonomy,” writes the author, “or requests for more pay by black speakers could bring chilly refusals and sharp rebukes.” It was perhaps small comfort to the spurned speakers that they were at least free, for there were escaped slaves and ex-slaves among the freemen, among them Frederick Douglass, Henry Bibb and William Wells Brown. Such men—rarely women—became well known in the 1840s and ’50s as the abolitionist movement grew, and inarguably they grew it. Still, when Douglass relocated to New York, his Bostonian patrons acted as if it were a personal rejection, setting off a decade of ugly back and forth that threatened to split the movement apart. Many of the figures in Kantrowitz’s narrative have long been forgotten; many are oddly prescient, including those who refused to drop the notion that African-Americans might actually bear arms in well-regulated militias to serve the cause of freedom. That changed with the Civil War, the aftermath of which, writes the author, promised much but did not deliver all that it should have.

A deft handling of overlooked history and a useful close study of data, documents and real lives.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59420-342-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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