A fresh, disquieting look into America’s traumatic past.



A history of slaves who sought legal redress to obtain emancipation.

For historian and Guggenheim fellow Thomas, investigating suits brought by slaves against slaveholders from America’s founding through the end of the Civil War had more than academic interest: His own ancestors, he was shocked to discover, included slave owners in Maryland and a lawyer who staunchly defended slave owners’ interests. Interwoven with his compelling historical narrative, the author recounts conferences, meetings, and his attendance at the Summer Institute for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School, where he met descendants of slaves, pastors, community organizers, and others to examine the reality and consequences of racism. Drawing on long-buried archival material—depositions, lawyers’ notes, fragmentary case files—Thomas fulfills his goal of chronicling the lawsuits and vividly bringing to light the lives and experiences of the individuals involved, particularly the Queen family, which sought freedom from bondage, and his own, the slaveholding Ducketts. The freedom suits, writes the author “were, in effect, a public counterpart of the Underground Railroad,” enacted across the country, in every court available—even up to the Supreme Court, which heard an appeal in 1813. Many of the suits were against the Jesuits, who, by 1767, “owned more slaves than any other person or organization in the Western Hemisphere.” They predominated in the American Colonies, where Jesuit priests were major tobacco planters. In Maryland, enslaved families won hundreds of freedom suits; some who were emancipated were able to liberate other family members, and some were able to acquire property. But winning a suit did not necessarily mean liberation for all; for some, “freedom did not sever ties as much as strain, twist, and bend them into new configurations.” Thomas reveals the deep-seated contradictions inherent in the slaveholding culture. Francis Scott Key, for example, a lawyer who represented more than 100 enslaved families, “also bought slaves and married into one of the largest slaveholding families in Maryland.”

A fresh, disquieting look into America’s traumatic past.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23412-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.


Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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