An urgent, brilliant work of historical excavation.

WAKE

THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF WOMEN-LED SLAVE REVOLTS

A vividly illustrated account of Black women rebels that combines elements of memoir, archival research, and informed imaginings of its subjects' lives.

A former tenants rights lawyer, Hall pursued a doctorate in history to uncover America's warped justice system. "In order to understand our experiences as Black women today,” she writes, “I had to study slavery.” This collaboration with illustrator Martínez focuses on two women-led revolts in New York City and uprisings during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Of a 1712 revolt, Hall finds in court records the first names of four women involved and sentenced to execution; none are quoted in transcripts. "This is one way history erases us….You think you are reading an accurate chronicle written at the time, but if who we are and what we care about are deemed irrelevant, it won't be in there,” writes Hall. The author also examines a 1708 revolt led by a woman referred to in documents as the “Negro Fiend”; she was burned at the stake. The granddaughter of slaves, the author seeks to honor her ancestors by filling in the silent record. Facing difficulty accessing records and digesting their information, Hall called upon her deceased grandmother for strength. In London, Hall delved into archives of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, reading hundreds of slave-ship logs. Revolts at sea were largely a suicide mission fueled by slaves' desire to "take their captors with them to the bottom of the ocean." Research shows that the more women onboard a slave ship, the more likely a revolt. Hall believes that this was because women were mostly kept unchained and on deck, where it was easier for crew members to rape them; this also gave them access to weapons. The black-and-white illustrations nicely complement the text and elevate the artfulness and the power of the book, which begins and ends with scenes depicting women-led revolts aboard a ship Hall calls the Unity.

An urgent, brilliant work of historical excavation.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982115-18-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A fiery, eloquent call to action for White men who want to be on the right side of history.

LETTERS TO MY WHITE MALE FRIENDS

A Black man speaks hard truths to White men about their failure to dismantle systemic racism.

A “child of the Black bourgeoisie,” journalist Ross first learned “the shadow history of Black revolutionary struggle” in college. He accepted that he “directly benefited from the struggle that generations of Black folks had died in the name of, yet I wasn’t doing anything to help those who hadn’t benefited.” The author calls the White men of his generation, Gen X, to also recognize their complicity and miseducation. “We were fed cherry-picked narratives that confirmed the worthlessness of Black life,” he writes, “The euphemistic ‘culture of poverty,’ not systemic oppression, was to blame for the conditions in which so many Black people lived.” The story that White people have been told about Black people is “missing a major chapter,” and Ross thoroughly elucidates that chapter with a sweeping deep dive into decades of American social history and politics that is at once personal, compelling, and damning. Through a series of well-crafted personal letters, the author advises White men to check their motivations and “interrogate the allegedly self-evident, ‘commonsense’ values and beliefs” that perpetuate inequality and allow them to remain blissfully unaware of the insidiousness of racism and the ways they benefit from it. Ross condemns the “pathological unwillingness to connect the past with the present” and boldly avoids the comfortable “both sides” rhetoric that makes anti-racism work more palatable to White people. “It is on you,” he writes, “to challenge the color-blind narratives your parents peddle.” The letters are consistently compelling, covering wide ground that includes the broken criminal justice system, gentrification, and the problem with framing equity work as “charity.” Finally, Ross offers practical guidance and solutions for White men to employ at work, in their communities, and within themselves. Pair this one with Emmanuel Acho’s Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man.

A fiery, eloquent call to action for White men who want to be on the right side of history.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-27683-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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