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on February 22, 2005
This is a timeless classic, and not just among memoirs, because the subject was a great American: a man who "had no get-back in him." Nate Shaw (real name Ned Cobb) had an amazing memory, and also an acute understanding of the post-Civil War rural South. The rhythm of the seasons, work routines, knowledge of livestock, nature and people too, combine for a profound view of a vanished America. (If you want to really know about mules, Ned's the man.) But Ned didn't just observe, he worked with the Alabama Sharecroppers' Union and defended powerless friends, serving 12 years in prison after being shot for his pains. This activism sets him apart from Kas Maine, a South African sharecropper to whom he's been compared in recent years. The earthy dialect wears out some readers, but otherwise "All God's Dangers" is compelling from start to end. Writers from Wendell Berry to Pete Daniel praise both man and book, while John Beecher's "In Egypt Land" is a moving poetic rendition of Ned's story. R. Kelley, "Hammer & Hoe" vividly recreates 1930s Alabama; on Kas Maine, see C. Van Onselen, "The Seed Is Mine." But Ned tells about his world far better than the others. In living, then narrating, a life of great struggle lived with great dignity, Ned Cobb performed a signal service --- for all of us. We are in your debt!
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on January 5, 2005
In the middle of Rosengarten's book, truly a masterpiece of oral history memoir making, Nate Shaw says "all God's dangers ain't a white man." This would seem truly a remarkable thing for a black man who spent over a decade in an Alabama prison to say, but as a farmer growing cotton in Alabama during the first half of the twentieth century it quickly makes sense once he explains it. Shaw's story of his chaffing under his good for nothing father's roof; his growing prosperity as share cropper and than as a yeoman farmer; his hucksterism when dealing with violent and hostile whites attempting to cheat him; the defense of fellow small farmers that got him thrown in jail during the Great Depression; and his takes on the science of farming, race relations, the American class system and his own life experiences show Shaw to be a master story teller and Rosengarten and master interviewer. The combination of these two was absolute dynamite.
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on December 21, 1999
it is not often that you can receive such an in depth and personal account of life in the south "post-slavery". even though slavery had been abolished and the south was supposed to be in reformation, nate shaw's true-life account shows how the effects of slavery (on both sides) were lasting and not easily forgotten. Shaw's extremely detailed account helps those of us who were not living in that time and place to get a real understanding of how this country was formed, and will hopefully open your eyes to the unnecessary and hideous reasons people have for discrimination.
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on January 4, 2001
Nate Shaw was the father of my Uncle Oscar Turner's best friend. His real name was Nate Cobb and the family of the son, Lorraine, is prominent in the Middletown, Ohio ghetto.
The author has done a masterful job of illustrating how greatness was thrust upon him. Nate never set out to become a hero, only to protect his own dignity and provide for his children.
I do not believe that there is a better book for teaching about the lies of 20th century sharecroppers. Theirs is an overlooked legacy.
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on June 21, 2014
I cannot state my praise for this book too highly. Theodore Rosengarten did us all such a great service when he took the time to spend with Nate Shaw and record his voluminous recollections of his life as a tenant farmer in the state of
Alabama during the 20th century. We might wonder why it has taken our great nation so long to embrace and manifest the promises made in our Constitution and Bill of Rights to each and every one of our citizens. This volume does a wonderful, although sobering, job, of explaining the way envy and jealousy each play a crucial role in keeping our fellow citizens down. Envy, Shaw explains, affects the actions of his neighbors of color, and jealousy, his neighbors of pallor. Let us each and every one truly pledge never to withhold the benefits of equal access to education and the fundamentals of property rights to our neighbor, regardless of our opinions of his/her religious belief, pallor or orientation.
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on September 20, 2014
This is a transcribed version of an oral history. It starts slowly...depending upon your interest in mules and cotton, but picks up halfway through. By the end you have...or I admiration for this black Alabama sharecropper and an appreciation for how difficult it was to be born just 20 years after the Civil War and be a black farmer in the South.
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on November 20, 2013
What an amazing story of a smart, strong creative and uneducated sharecropper, who raised a bright and productive family. Ted basically recorded all of Ned's words from hours of listening to him. It is an inspiring story of hope and determination.
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on December 2, 2008
Not much to say really--a great book about a very great man. For those who think the struggle for racial equality began in 1954 this book will widden their historical hisorical horizons. But what it shows to me above all are the heroic possibilities of ordinary people in the US "Nate Shaw" or others like Hosea Hudson and later Fannie Lou Hamer--I wish somehow people in other parts of the world could read this book because they would realize there is a hidden America, an America not represented by our dreary and belicose politicians or our narcotic talking heads or worse our "official" historians" I can think of very few other books about American history that EVERONE MUST READ.
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on May 13, 2014
It was GREAT to meet Nate Shaw. I had no trouble believing his story of life in the post-reconstruction South. His trials and tribulations should be known by everyone who seems to not understand why Blacks have not just become middle class. He always considered himself a poor man because he had no say in life around him. So much had been done to keep him in his place. With his background, which is the background of many people, he had few tools to assist his climb. There were many people, black and white who took aim at him, and the few possessions that he did acquire. But he had a rich mind and a forgiving spirit. He kept going relating, improving and challenging as he could. Powerful Story. I am very happy that it has gotten re-issued 40 years after its first publication. Maybe now, we can hear it correctly and completely.
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on April 25, 2014
The plain goodness and consistent charity of this man are evidence
of "man at his best" in the face of truly terrible life situations. While
I winced at what others put him through, from his father to the white men
in his town, his constancy to do them no harm and to raise up his family
and neighbors is a total foil to the cynicism of our time.

If Nate had had some advantages in life, some education, a supportive
father, he could have achieved material prominence.

But, more inspiring, what so shines out is the greatness of the soul of the man.
This is a magnificent story of one man's personal triumph over dreadful odds.

There should be a statue for this man among the American greats in the Capitol.
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