MANY THOUSAND GONE by Virginia Hamilton

MANY THOUSAND GONE

African Americans from Slavery to Freedom
Age Range: 9 & up
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Taking as her theme the "joyous anthem of freedom," beginning with "No more auction block for me," Hamilton samples documented African-American lives from 1619 through the Civil War. Grouping 34 accounts under three headings--"Slavery in America," "Running-Aways," "Exodus to Freedom"--she offers telling vignettes in roughly chronological order, deftly sketching indomitable people valiantly endeavoring to escape. Restricting herself to almost unembellished historical record, Hamilton presents what is known with a cool austerity that makes her subtext even more forceful: though the injustices are representative, these lives are exceptional in having left traces, however meager. The anecdotal fragments are masterfully chosen to illustrate the cruel commonplace, as well as to rehearse pivotal events (Dred Scott) and examine extremes (caught by a posse, Margaret Garner killed her beloved daughter in order to keep her from slavery). As always, Hamilton's prose is concise, lucid, and fresh (Henry Brown's owner "thought Henry to be happily humble, slow to think and act, inferior in all ways. But Henry was watchful and quick-witted, ever hopeful..."). Along with a splendid jacket of runaways emerging into a dawn of hope, the Dillons provide powerful b&w illustrations of heroic figures of monumental simplicity, handsomely set in dramatically spare compositions. A compelling book, outstanding in every way. (Nonfiction. 9+)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-394-82873-9
Page count: 152pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993




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