Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Book Roundup

Nell Irving Painter has a review in The New York Times of William Wells Brown: An African American Life by Ezra Greenspan (Norton & Co.). 
"Greenspan, an English professor at Southern Methodist University, has written a highly sophisticated biography that appreciates Brown’s many and varied forms of self-expression. This deep and wide depiction of Brown within his several contexts rests upon a patchwork of sources, American and European — for Brown, despite his many books, left no archive. 
The child who would be William Wells Brown was born enslaved in Kentucky, in about 1814, the son of his owner’s cousin. In St. Louis, given the job of tending a young charge also called William, his name was changed to Sandford with the carelessness characteristic of slave naming. As Sandford he worked in his owner’s medical office and on the Mississippi River’s ships and docks. After several unsuccessful attempts at escape, one with his mother, he finally fled St. Louis at about age 19. He retook his own name William and added Wells Brown in honor of the Quaker who had rescued him from starving and freezing in Ohio."
This week Nicholas R. Parrillo's Against the Profit Motive: The Salary Revolution in American Government, 1780-1940 (Yale University Press) is reviewed alongside Dana Goldstein's The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession (Doubleday) and Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Force (PublicAffairs).

You can read about Michael A. Ross's latest, Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice in the Reconstruction Era (Oxford University Press) in The New York Times, in a double book review with Gary Krist's Empire of Sin (Crown) in The Wall Street Journal, and there's even a short YouTube piece from Oxford University Press about Ross's book. From the NY Times,

"The police chief put his top black detective, John Baptiste Jourdain, on the case. Jourdain, the son of a white Creole father and free black mother, had already left a historical footprint. In 1864 he was among some 1,000 Afro-Creoles who signed a petition asking Lincoln to extend the vote to the free blacks of Louisiana. In 1867 he testified before a Congressional committee about bloody riots of the previous year, when officers from New Orleans’s police force, then still all-white, helped a mob attack a biracial state convention.

Jourdain, Mr. Ross writes, had studied investigative techniques originating in France, including deductive reasoning and the use of disguises, which he adopted during the Digby investigation. He interacted easily with whites involved in the case, including Thomas Digby, Mollie’s father, who repeatedly welcomed him into the family home, Mr. Ross relates. “We think of the Irish and African-Americans as being at one another’s throats, and yet here the interactions were all quite respectful,” the historian said."
The Nation asks "How did 'one person, one vote' become the rule for statehouses across the country?" in a review of J. Douglas Smith's On Democracy’s Doorstep: The Inside Story of How the Supreme Court Brought “One Person, One Vote” to the United States (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

The Nation also has a recent review of several new works on capitalism and slavery including Sven Beckert's The Monied Metropolis (Cambridge), Christine Desan's Making Money (Oxford), Edward E. Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told (Basic), Sven Beckert's Empire of Cotton (Knopf), Walter Johnson's River of Dark Dreams (Harvard), and the edited volume, The Cambridge History of Capitalism.

And, lastly, H-Net has added a couple reviews of note, including a review of Cheryl Janifer LaRoche's Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance (Univ. of Ill. Press) and a review of Glenn Tatsuya Mitoma's Human Rights and the Negotiation of American Power (Univ. of Penn. Press).