An often riveting history of a family that left an indelible impact on the nation.



A history of a prominent American family’s entrepreneurial rise and the way that it shaped modern philanthropy.

In 1638, Englishman Chad Browne set sail for Boston in search of religious freedom, and he later converted to a Baptist denomination, impressed with its optimistic spirit and commitment to egalitarianism. In 1722, his descendant, James, who was fascinated by all things maritime, established the family trading business that set the stage for its future wealth. Obadiah Brown changed the spelling of the family name, and his son, Nicholas, oversaw a tremendous expansion of the family business, coterminous with the transformation of Providence, Rhode Island, into a major commercial port. However, Nicholas Brown II is the real focal point of the book, not only because his 40-year partnership with Thomas Ives was so lucrative, but also because he greatly changed the nature of the family’s charitable activity. Previously, the Browns’ generosity was a function of self-interested desire for social station and influence, but Nicholas II took seriously the notion of philanthropy as social responsibility. In 1804, he made a significant contribution to the College of Rhode Island when it was in dire straits, and as a result, it was renamed after the family. In the 1820s, Nicholas II made Brown University the principal object of his attention, and worked hard to make it an instrument of morality and civic-mindedness. By approaching his role as benefactor as a more participatory one, with a view toward long-term results, he helped to create the model for modern philanthropic strategy. Brown (The Post-Pregnancy Handbook, 2003) took more than a decade to research and write this book, and her mastery of her own family’s history is undeniable. It has the scrupulousness and detail of a journalistic effort, meticulously weaving a large amount of information into a coherent tapestry. One could quibble that, at times, she includes too much detail, particularly about the family’s finances. Brown candidly declares up front that one reason that she wrote the book was to address the demonization of family members who participated in the slave trade. She notes that the Browns were conflicted; Nicholas II, for example, inherited his opposition to slavery from his uncle Moses (“one of the earliest and most fervent advocates of abolition”), but he also expressed worry about the social consequences of its elimination. The author never excuses her family’s participation in the slave trade, but she does attempt to situate their moral transgression in the full historical context in which it occurred, instead of simplistically applying “the precepts of the present to the mores of the past.” Later, the author shows that the Brown family’s transformation of its attitude toward philanthropy mirrored what was happening in the country at large. During a discussion of Jacksonian America, she astutely juxtaposes the nation’s principled commitment to egalitarianism with the burgeoning inequality produced by urbanization and industrialization. Throughout, Brown’s prose is clear and spirited, and the story unfolds briskly and dramatically.

An often riveting history of a family that left an indelible impact on the nation.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4808-4417-9

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2017

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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