From School Library Journal
Grade 4-8-In this readable, well-organized book, the McKissacks make extensive use of firsthand slave narratives collected in the 1930s. As well as documenting the gradual end of slavery, they discuss many other historic events and controversies, using the viewpoints recorded in Southerner Mary Chestnut's Civil War diary and other primary sources. Brief descriptions of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the unequal treatment of African Americans by whites in both the North and the South after slavery ended, and the progress made by the civil rights movement are included. A sidebar erroneously states that "-a slave ship-docked in Mobile Harbor at night on July 9, 1866.-Fowler couldn't sell the slaves, so when the Civil War began, he set the captives free." The book is illustrated with many historical duotone photographs and engravings, but there is no map showing the battles described in the text. Readers familiar with Civil War history will be fascinated by the wealth of information on African Americans' contributions to the war effort, but those researching only the end of slavery may feel overwhelmed by tangential accounts of battles and military leaders. A useful resource for most collections.
Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 5-8. As this book clearly shows, there was no single day when slavery ended in the U.S. but a series of dates when groups and individual slaves celebrated their own "days of Jubilee." The discussion begins after the Revolutionary War, when many of the African Americans who had fought were freed, but it quickly moves on to the Civil War era. Each chapter begins with a quotation from a historical document, followed by a boxed story that tells, for example, of a slave family escaping to the Union army or a Boston church congregation receiving word that Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The quotations are sourced (though often identified only as "slave Narrative"), but no source notes are given for the boxed narratives, which occasionally seem lightly fictionalized. The McKissacks do a remarkable job of explaining Civil War history as it relates to the end of slavery, and their lively account presents the war and its consequences in very human terms. For instance, it relates that in New York when, for the first time in history, photographs of the dead and dying soldiers on a battlefield went on display, "people cried out in horror." The balanced perspective, vivid telling, and well-chosen details give this book an immediacy that many history books lack. Illustrations include reproductions of many period photographs as well as paintings, prints, and documents, and a time line and a bibliography are appended. Carolyn Phelan
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