RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe story of how Black people in a slaveholding society affected federal policy by their movements, by their defiance and by their very existence has been told before. But rarely has this story been told as compassionately, or rendered as beautifully ... Significantly, [the] author take[s] the long tradition of Black resistance as a given; the book [is] not [a] study of racial exceptionalism, but of Black political agency as a persistent current ... masterfully researched, yet [the authors] greatest contribution lies in the radical implications of [his] thesis: that 19th-century American politics were shaped as much by Black resistance to enslavement as by the institution of slavery itself ... Baumgartner’s placement of fugitive slaves at the center of this story is not merely cosmetic. The fact that the commander in Nacogdoches wrestled with whether to grant them freedom, despite the legal precedent for doing so, shows how slavery, emancipation and empire were constantly renegotiated based on enslaved people’s movements across geographical and political boundaries.
Jonathan Daniel Wells
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIn The Kidnapping Club, Wells shows how the \'booming and prosperous metropolis\' of antebellum New York City profited from the rendition to the South of escaped slaves who sought freedom in the North ... his narrative dissects the tragic effects of an organized group of local police officers, merchants and Democratic politicians who supported Southern slave catchers unleashed upon the city’s Black community by federal fugitive slave law ... one of Wells’s greatest contributions is his reminder that there were many Solomon Northups, and that some of them were children ... Black New Yorkers might have faced an insurmountable Goliath in the white political establishment, but by challenging the kidnapping club in court and on the streets, they were not entirely powerless.
Les Payne and Tamara Payne
RaveThe Atlantic...this kind of textured attention to Black life and community, whether in Omaha or Boston, Atlanta or Accra, distinguishes Les Payne’s masterful biography, The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X ... a meticulously researched, compassionately rendered, and fiercely analytical examination of the radical revolutionary as a human being ... a portrait that pushes us beyond the adolescent hero worship that many in my generation cling to in our current political moment as we reread Malcolm X, C. L. R. James, Angela Davis, and other Black thinkers ... With new information gleaned from decades of research, Payne sheds fresh light on key moments in Malcolm’s political journey ... Because Payne takes the memories and views of Black communities seriously—because he never assumes that Malcolm’s Black contemporaries experienced him in the same way that we describe him in the present—The Dead Are Arising provides an invaluable glimpse into the mechanics of community mobilization led by Black women ... The Dead Are Arising forces us to ask deeper, more complicated questions about the Black people and places from which our heroes come.