Piersen (History/Fisk University) looks at selected areas of American culture from a perspective that offers an occasional convincing surprise, as he focuses on African traditions and social mechanisms that reached the New World (including the Caribbean and Latin America) with the black slaves. The author has collected folktales and oral traditions from both sides of the Atlantic to explain how blacks came to be dominated by whites—material that, while it may not cast a new light on history, is interesting in itself and gives access into the rationalizing consciousness of the enslaved. Piersen takes a serious, not romantic, view of African royalty: While few African kings and princesses ruled over vast regions or great wealth, ideas of rank and social etiquette were highly developed, and the author suggests that class-conscious slaves were not—as is usually believed—upholding their masters' values but were transmitting African ideas about manner and caste. Satiric song lyrics and the subversive humor of black Americans have often been described as weapons of powerless people too beaten to use force, but Piersen shows that public humiliation and criticism—rather than violence or physical punishment—was a primary method of social control in African societies. He suggests that the original KKK regalia (predating white hoods and sheets) was inspired by the masking traditions of African secret societies. The African origins and influence on southern cooking, Carnival, and the use of herbal medicine seem much less hidden. If Piersen can't consistently provide jolts of new understanding, his compilation of materials remains readable and interesting throughout.

Pub Date: June 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-87023-854-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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