New depth in the legacy of America’s struggle for equal rights.

SARAH’S LONG WALK

THE FREE BLACKS OF BOSTON AND HOW THEIR STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY CHANGED AMERICA

Examination of a little-known civil-rights lawsuit brought in 1848 that, although rebuffed, anticipated the desegregation victory in Brown v. Board of Education more than a century later.

The Sarah Roberts case will be unfamiliar to most Americans, and all its principal participants, with the possible exception of abolitionist lawyer (and later Senator) Charles Sumner, have been largely forgotten. Sumner was enlisted by 25-year-old Robert Morris, the first black attorney to win a jury trial in the US, to provide experienced guidance in a suit brought against the City of Boston by Sarah and Benjamin Roberts on behalf of their daughter Sarah. The five-year-old Sarah, denied entry at the school closest to her home, was forced to walk past four other white-only schools on her way to Smith School, an overcrowded, under-resourced facility for blacks only. The case reached the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, where legendary Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw, in ruling segregation legal under the Constitution, concocted the “separate but equal” concept that would later buttress the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision producing John Marshall Harlan’s prophetic lone dissent—“Our constitution is color-blind.” The Roberts family and their attorneys, however, wouldn’t quit pursuing legislation finally enacted in 1855 that outlawed segregation—though not de facto—in Massachusetts schools forever, producing a flood of racist vitriol from northern newspapers. Minister and novelist Stephen Kendrick (Night Watch, 2001) and NAACP Washington, DC, chapter president Paul Kendrick paint a carefully framed, evocative portrait of the middle-class black community that had been ensconced on Beacon Hill since Revolutionary times. It was this community that provided the majority of recruits to the 54th Massachusetts Infantry which, when decimated at the Civil War battle of Fort Wagner, near Charleston (subject of the popular 1989 film Glory), exploded the popular notion that blacks were inferior in combat.

New depth in the legacy of America’s struggle for equal rights.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8070-5018-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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