Breaking the Chains

William Loren Katz, Author, David Katz, Author
William Loren Katz, Author, David Katz, Author Atheneum Books $16 (194p) ISBN 978-0-689-31493-3
Reviewed on: 08/29/1990
Release date: 09/01/1990
American history books tend to gloss over the heroism of slaves prior to and during the Civil War; after all, most contemporaneous accounts of slavery were written by those who profited from it--the slave owners. Katz, however, masterfully steers the reader step by step through the astonishing forms of resistance, both active and passive, offered by blacks--free men as well as slaves. Here the victims of injustice and cruelty speak for themselves: ``So galling was our bondage, that to escape from it, we suffered the loss of all things, and braved every peril, and endured every hardship,'' a fugitive slave testifies. Famous mentors, such as Dred Scott, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, are vividly depicted, as are anonymous resisters: men and women who secretly preserved their African heritage; others who sent hidden messages to one another through drumbeats or took heart from the liberating themes of gospel songs; mothers who hid children in the woods to prevent the master from selling them. Several lengthy, informative chapters document black participation in the Civil War. The only weak spot is Katz's discussion of the transatlantic voyages of the slave ships, which could have been more detailed. And while the language is perhaps too difficult for its youngest targeted readers, this powerful and authentic collection will be welcomed by those seeking to reclaim the truth behind their heritage. Illustrated with prints and photos. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
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