Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Book Roundup

Justene Hill reviews The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism 1815-1860 by Calvin Schermerhorn (Yale University Press) for Common-Place.
"One of the most impressive aspects of Schermerhorn’s analysis is the way he incorporates slave smuggling into chapter three, “Sweet Dreams and Smuggling Schemes,” and chapter six, “Chains of Violence.” In these chapters, he delves into the economic and legal complications of slave smuggling for traders in the upper Atlantic, specifically in New Jersey and New York. In chapter 3, Schermerhorn examines the ways in which New York merchants-turned-slave traders John Marsh and William Stone took advantage of the growing demand in the 1810s and early 1820s for bonded workers on sugar plantations in Louisiana to coerce conditionally free African Americans in New Jersey to leave their homes for employment. In chapter 6, Schermerhorn deploys Solomon Northup’s narrative, Twelve Years a Slave, to investigate slave-abducting as a byproduct of slave traders’ avarice to fulfill demand for black slaves in the lower South."
New Books interviews Lori A. Flores about her book Grounds for Dreaming: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants and the California Farmworker Movement (Yale University Press).

The Washington Post has a review of The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanore Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott (Knopf).

H-Net has a review of The Forgotten Men: Serving a Life without Parole Sentence by Margaret E. Leigey (Rutgers University Press).

Annette Gordon-Reed reviews The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict by Austin Reed and Caleb Smith (Random House).
"Reed recalls his experience of prison life in the 19th century in a singular, clear voice. His was not a typical story of a black man living in pre-Civil War America. He was neither Southern nor enslaved. He was born and raised in upstate New York; his father, Burrell Reed, was a barber, which was considered a very prestigious position for a black man. His mother, Maria, was a literate woman from Massachusetts. For a time, Burrell and Maria Reed raised Austin, his three brothers and a sister amid “the close circle of middle-class people of color” in Rochester. The city, which also became the home of Frederick Douglass, was transforming into “one of North America’s great centers of black intellectual and political culture.” During Austin’s early childhood, the Reed family owned their home, and he and his siblings shared some of the privileges enjoyed by children of white middle-class families. Austin had his own bed in a two-story house, and he likely went to the local school for black children."
The New York Times reviews Adam Cohen's Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck (Penguin).

The NYT also reviews Gillian Thomas's Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women's Lives at Work (St. Martin's Press).
"Thomas is a gifted storyteller, and the changing circumstances of these women’s lives as their cases drag on, along with the unpredictability of the courts, give her plenty to work with. She provides lots of head-shaking moments. Surely, you say to yourself, that couldn’t have been legal — such as when a city utility required women to contribute 15 percent more to their pension fund because they lived longer than men. (Never mind that survivorship provisions often meant that shorter-lived men would leave widows who continued to receive the benefits.)"

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