A much-needed book that stakes a solid place in a battlefield of ideas over America’s past and present.

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THE 1619 PROJECT

A NEW ORIGIN STORY

A book-length expansion of the New York Times Magazineissue that explores the history of slavery in America and its countless toxic consequences.

Famously denied tenure at the University of North Carolina for her critical journalism, Hannah-Jones sounds controversial notes at the start: There are no slaves but instead enslaved people, a term that “accurately conveys the condition without stripping the individual of his or her humanity,” while the romantic plantation gives way to the more accurate terms labor camp and forced labor camp. The 1619 Project was intended to introduce Black people into the mainstream narrative of American history as active agents. It may have been White people who enslaved them, but apart from the legal and constitutional paperwork, it was Black people who resisted and liberated themselves and others, from their very first arrival at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 to the very present. Hannah-Jones and colleagues consider a nation still wrestling with the outcomes of slavery, an incomplete Reconstruction, and a subsequent history of Jim Crow laws and current legal efforts to disenfranchise Black voters. As she notes, the accompanying backlash has been vigorous, including attempted laws by the likes of Sen. Tom Cotton to strip federal funds from schools that teach the 1619 Project or critical race theory. Among numerous other topics, the narrative examines: the thought that the American independence movement was fueled at least in part by the insistence on maintaining slavery as the Crown moved to abolition; the use of slavery to tamp down resistance among poor Whites whose functions were essentially the same as the enslaved but who, unlike Black people, were not considered property; the ongoing appropriation of Black music, which has “midwifed the only true integration this country has known,” as Wesley Morris writes, by a machine that perpetuates minstrelsy. Those readers open to fresh and startling interpretations of history will find this book a comprehensive education.

A much-needed book that stakes a solid place in a battlefield of ideas over America’s past and present.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-23057-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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