A compelling reconstruction of a slave-revolt conspiracy in Adams County, Mississippi, during the spring and summer of 1861— and of the grisly events that ensued after the plot was exposed. The documentary trail of the ``Plan,'' as the abortive insurrection was called, is reed-thin: No official government report, newspaper article, pamphlet, or speech referred to it, and other contemporary records mentioned it only with tantalizing brevity. The longest extant record, an ``examination'' (no doubt coerced) of the plotters by local planters, is more helpful but still fragmentary. Nonetheless, from this slim evidence, Jordan (History and Afro-American Studies/Univ. of Mississippi; The White Man's Burden, 1973) presents a coherent narrative about a southern community perched on the lip of a volcano, astonished at proof of the slave unrest it had long dismissed but always feared. Jordan has fleshed out the testimony of the conspirators with the help of census records, diaries and letters, plantation papers, a WPA oral history given by an ex-slave, and even gravestones. Moreover, in ferreting out how the conspiracy formed and then unraveled, he never strains credulity, and he uses the incident to throw light on such matters as the role of religion among slaves, fear of abolitionist agitation, class divisions in white society, the grapevine by which slaves communicated, and male slaveholders' fears that their women would be raped. Jordan's tale evokes the furtive nocturnal whisperings of the conspirators, rumors running wild among slaveholders, and silence masking awful carnage (at least 40 slaves were hanged in the Natchez, Mississippi, region during the year of the plot). A historical jigsaw puzzle assembled with consummate skill by a thoughtful chronicler of the ``peculiar institution.'' (One halftone, two maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8071-1762-5

Page Count: 367

Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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