71 of 90 people found the following review helpful
This is selective and filtered history,
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This review is from: A Renegade History of the United States (Kindle Edition)
I was particularly intrigued by the argument that slaves were more free than working whites. You have to be more well read and intellectually gifted than your typical 'merican to understand the nuance of the argument and grasp the full context of the freedom that Russell is discussing.
But Russell's defense of his premise relies on anecdotal evidence, and he does not give proper weighting to the suffering imposed on slaves or on ex slaves in the decades that followed the Civil War. His suggestion that most plantation owners treated slaves delicately because they did not want to lower production by angering their slaves is just not adequately defended with hard evidence. There is plenty of evidence to counter this proposition, but you won't find it refuted or even acknowledged in this book.
There are many interesting aspects of American history discussed in this book that make it a worthwhile read. But it is lacking in rigorous scholarship. Being revolutionary and anti-establishment doesn't make the arguments true, it just makes them provocative.
This book made me stop to think and reconsider, but it did not leave me with the feeling that there was a kernel of a great revelation here, and that it is something I would like to dive into more deeply.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 7, 2011 5:08:58 PM PST
Amazon Customer says:
this is one book that discusses a portion of US history. Unfortunatly it has to be antedotal because it discusses the history of the lower classes and the role of sin in US society which are not going to be as well documented as the middle class let alone the elites. It does provide a window into the lower classes and their role in the history of the United States.
Posted on Feb 12, 2011 11:02:30 AM PST
Ronald E. Jones says:
For a first person account, you may find instructive "A Southside View of Slavery; or Three Months at the South in 1854" by Nehemiah Adams
Posted on Mar 13, 2011 10:43:52 AM PDT
Spike Spiegel says:
slavery is a minor topic of this book but it was interesting to read a more diverse historical observation. we need 'em all. bear in mind that history is written by victors not losers. slavery of any kind is bad but remember, in the course of 2,000 yrs of documented human history, less than a few hundred years is free of slavery. as such, like prostitution, there must be a utility reason that is mutually acceptable to both the slave owners and the enslaved for this to exist. nonetheless, it is interesting. i find this book a total fun read, like how prostitutes helped to established freedom for women, from walking alone on the street to wearing make up, from financial independence of women to wearing red dress. this book is extremely enlightening. i will write my own review on this book soon....
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2011 4:46:00 PM PDT
Kerry W Calvert says:
The suggestion that slaves find utility in being slaves is a fantastic claim that deserves fantastic evidence. You can always find such "evidence" in the rationalizations of the slave masters. But opinion in not evidence.
Here is one of Frederick Douglass's findings of utility in being a slave:
Why am I a slave?Why are some people slaves and others masters? Was there ever a tie when this was not so? How did the relation commence?
Once, however engged in the inquiry, I was not very long in finding out the true solution of the matter. It was not color, but crime, not God, but man, that addorded the true explantion of the existence of slavery; nor was I long in finding out another importan truth, viz: what man can make, man can unname.
I distinctly remember being, even then, most strongly impressed with the idea of being a free man some day. This cheering assurance was an inborn dream of my human nature - a constance menace to slavery - and one which all the power of slavery were unable to silence or extinguish.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 13, 2011 9:10:28 PM PDT
Ronald E. Jones says:
As slavery has been part of societies the world over since the very beginning. There were (and are), no doubt, slaves who find utility in the relationship.
Deuteronomy 15:16-17 provides instructions for how to proceed in this circumstance:
"Then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise."
as an aside, in light of the above, it has always struck me as humorous that so many men (most of whom probably object to slavery) think taking on the mark of a slave (an earring) is attractive.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2013 9:16:18 AM PST
From the point of view of humanity being a product of genetically manipulated alien technology (a la The Gods of Eden, The Genesis Race: Our Extraterrestrial DNA and the True Origins of the Species and God, Genes, and Consciousness: Nonhuman Intervention in Human History) ALL humans are slaves. And like the people in the Matrix, apparently many choose to be comfortably numb and asleep. There is obviously some utility in ignorance (otherwise we'd never have such a stupid saying as, "ignorance is bliss").
Posted on Jan 13, 2014 8:41:28 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 13, 2014 8:50:44 PM PST
I agree with your assessment but gave the book one more star for the sheer entertainment value plus the author presenting information based on research that we never get to hear, though obviously he is using research to build a case to support his hedonistic worldview. But don't all historians do that -- use history to build a case? This one was just far more interesting and outrageous.
I like you rolled my eyes at many of his conclusions and suspect that he rolls his eyes at what he is about to dare to say as well -- in the interest of being provocative. Disagree on your whites freer than slaves statement though -- my takeaway is that the author feels that whites are more constricted in their culture and that blacks, slaves or not, are just more authentic. As someone who has lived amongst both I'd say he's spot on. He does tend to make these outrageous conclusions but I think that is just to get people to read the history.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 4, 2014 2:20:42 PM PST
1. Chattel slavery was never mutually beneficial. Otherwise, why would a master want the responsibility of slaves? You have slaves to make money and sometimes to gain social prestige. Slaves get to work until dead with the profit always going to others.
2. Some forms of slavery allowed slaves (or at least their children) to enter the larger society. That's a very different system from what was in the US.
Posted on Mar 2, 2014 10:26:21 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 2, 2014 10:28:43 AM PST
This is a nuanced review of a sophisticated, complex work. Russell's book doesn't fit easily into liberal or conservative pigeonholes, so many Amazon reviewers struggle to make sense of it.
One example is when a reader's post argues for enslavement being "useful" to the slaves. This is quite specious. Apart from some regions where people sold themselves into bondage to avoid starvation, slavery was mostly useful to slavers, not their victims.
Calvert is probably correct in saying that Russell seeks to be provocative (i.e. thought-provoking), leading to some overstatements on his part, & to misunderstanding on some readers' parts.
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