PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewDeeply researched and revelatory ... A fascinating meditation on the meaning of slavery and of people converted to property and commodities ... But it is also the moving human story of some of the people who endured and survived this ordeal, and who have long awaited rediscovery ... When Swarns writes about descendants of the 272, her story is equally compelling, although her narrative sweeps somewhat hurriedly to the Civil War ... Chronology and family structures can get a little muddled in Swarns’s otherwise beautifully written account ... Here and there a historical misstep occurs, though these should not affect the book’s impact in academia and beyond.
PositiveThe Washington Post... an unusual but engaging collective biography ... Woodard succeeds in demonstrating the high stakes of master narratives, versions of the past that people choose as identities and stories in which they wish to live ... This book will help readers grasp the staying power and the consequences of the idea—ingrained in generations—that American history is essentially a chronicle of progress, a saga of liberty unfolding under some illusive pattern of exceptionalism and divine design ... Woodard devotes a great deal of space to developing the fascinating biographies of each of these men in short, snappy chapters that shift back and forth between all manner of confluences and coincidences, some useful and some not. We get to know them, their habits, temperaments and health crises.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksDavid Zucchino’s engaging and disturbing book, Wilmington’s Lie, not only vividly reconstructs the events of 1898 but reveals the mountain of lies that has stood in the way of a truer, if not a reconciled, history. All those in America who do not understand the old and festering foundation of contemporary voter suppression should read this book ... Zucchino’s writing is crisp and declarative. Some of the book reads like in-depth reporting, yet he also expresses a careful level of moral indignation against the blunt racism he uncovers. His portraits of the three principal leaders of the white supremacy campaign in 1898 are particularly skillful ... Zucchino is at his best as he builds the historical infrastructure of lies from which the story of Wilmington emerged ... Zucchino’s work is both enlightening and painful. At times the reader feels some whiplash from being pushed back and forth through history. His explanation of the election of 1876 as an end of Reconstruction is a bit simplistic ... But Zucchino is a marvelous writer. Only at the end of the book does he draw any direct comparison to today’s voter suppression in North Carolina and elsewhere, but one feels that treacherous legacy on nearly every page.
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleFoner, one of our most respected historians of the Civil War and Reconstruction era, has written a distinctive and valuable book, showing persuasively that we should not understand Lincoln from the myth-glazed outcome reading backward, but from the beginning, through one transformative event after another, looking forward. This is a historian\'s book, a lesson in context, but one hopes it will be widely read ... Foner steadfastly avoids the pathos or drama, the sheer narrative appeal, of Lincoln\'s poetic and tragic story. He takes on the most sensitive subject in Lincoln scholarship, and tries, almost to a fault, to de-sentimentalize it. This book is about policy, not the person, ideas, not the life ... There are moments when one wishes that Foner might interpret even further some of the pivotal changes in Lincoln\'s trajectory, rather than merely reconstruct them.
RaveThe Washington PostLike Olmsted before him, Tony captures the voices of a wide diversity of Americans most of us never meet ... it is Tony’s mule trip through the beauty and partial wildness of the Hill Country, along the Guadalupe River with a brutal and offensive mule skinner and guide named Buck, that readers will find impossible to forget ... In Horwitz’s writing, past and present collide and march together on almost every page, prying our minds open with the absurdity, hilarity and humanity we encounter ... 414 pages of sparkling prose.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"... remarkable ... Gergel’s book is a revealing window into both the hideous racial violence and humiliation of segregation in the period immediately after World War II, and the heroic origins of the legal crusade to destroy Jim Crow ... Gergel brings his riveting narrative to a climax with the Briggs v. Elliott case of 1951 ... The great value of Unexampled Courage is that it might garner a broad audience for the kinds of heroism involved in this history of litigation, all of which was a necessary prelude to the direct-action crusade of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. Gergel may place too much emphasis on individual agency in this story, but it is impossible to deny the pivotal role of these figures...\
RaveThe New York Review of BooksDelbanco writes lyrically and with presentist passion ... Delbanco also writes with a genuine sense of tragedy, and no small dose of indignation, about this story ... As a literary scholar, Delbanco values ambiguity, the confounding character of irony. When it comes to responsibility for slavery’s overwhelming power in our national history, he rejects simple fables of good and evil ... In an intriguing aside, he contends that Melville based Captain Ahab directly on the figure of John C. Calhoun, the South’s and slavery’s most notorious defender and a crucial proponent of the Fugitive Slave Law. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is Delbanco’s serious engagement with and analysis of Calhoun’s place in history ... he uses familiar analogies throughout the book. Most succeed. In effect, he is having a conversation with his reader about today’s deeply divided society, by means of the fugitive slave issue and the way it tore America apart more than 150 years ago ... A major strength of this book is the writing itself ... Such grim language will not please everyone in today’s climate, but it wakes you up ... sweeping and fascinating...despite his title and his own use of the language of inevitability.