The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States

Walter Johnson. Basic, $35 (544p) ISBN 978-0-465-06426-7
This exhaustive and politically minded history of St. Louis, Mo., by Harvard history professor Johnson (Soul by Soul) indicts the city’s treatment of its minority residents. Opening with the 1804 Lewis and Clark Expedition, which set out from St. Louis and led to the forcible removal of Native Americans from their lands, Johnson details Missouri’s admission to the U.S. as a slave state; the Supreme Court’s 1857 decision in the Dred Scott case, which originated in St. Louis; and the emergence of ragtime music from the “barrooms and bordellos” of the city’s Deep Morgan district. In later chapters, he explores how the redevelopment of the city’s riverfront and the construction of the Gateway Arch in the 1960s displaced black residents, and argues that the 2014 police shooting death of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Mo., and the unrest that followed “exemplif[y] the history of structural racism” in the region. Johnson makes a persuasive case that “St. Louis has been the crucible of American history,” and his celebration of the city’s defiant black culture heightens the book’s potency. Progressive readers interested in African-American and Western history will savor this incisive and troubling account. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/23/2020
Release date: 04/14/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-3174-5
Paperback - 544 pages - 978-1-5416-1958-6
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