February 28, 2013 by Reader's Connection
The Indiana Repertory Theatre will be producing Matthew Lopez’s play The Whipping Man from March 5th to March 24th. You can click on their logo here to order tickets.
My thanks to Selector Kathy Barnard for sending this list of related titles
The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez
It is April, 1865. The Civil War is over and throughout the south, slaves are being freed, soldiers are returning home and in Jewish homes, the annual celebration of Passover is being celebrated. Into the chaos of war-torn Richmond comes Caleb DeLeon, a young Confederate officer who has been severely wounded. He finds his family’s home in ruins and abandoned, save for two former slaves, Simon and John, who wait in the empty house for the family’s return. As the three men wait for signs of life to return to the city, they wrestle with their shared past, the bitter irony of Jewish slave-owning and the reality of the new world in which they find themselves. The sun sets on the last night of Passover and Simon – having adopted the religion of his masters – prepares a humble Seder to observe the ancient celebration of the freeing of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, noting with particular satisfaction the parallels to their current situation. But the pain of their enslavement will not be soothed by this tradition, and deep-buried secrets from the past refuse to be hidden forever . . . Summary note
Faber offers empirical refutation of the claims made in the notoriously influential 1991 Nation of Islam publication, The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, that Jews played a largely disproportionate role in the slave trade. Focusing on the British empire and citing original sources such as shipping and tax records, stock-transfer ledgers, censuses, slave registers, and synagogue records, Faber establishes that Jewish participation in the slave trade was indeed minimal. — Book News
In the Image of God: Religion, Moral Values, and Our Heritage of Slavery by David Brion Davis
Part 1 reviews biographies of Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King, then turns to Jewish-African American relations in the context of the controversy over Jewish involvement in the slave trade. Parts 2 and 3 discuss historians C. Vann Woodward and Eugene Genovese and consider what in one piece is called “the labyrinth of slavery.” Further on in part 3 and in part 4, Davis initiates readers into a lively conversation among historians about relationships between capitalism and slavery and about the complex question of resistance. In part 5, Davis turns to the social construction of race and interrelations among race, class, and gender. He relentlessly resists simplification and maintains a global perspective, but his insistence on complexity doesn’t make his work inaccessible. He proves a worthy guide for walking through the labyrinth with open eyes. — Booklist
Jews and the American Slave Trade by Saul S. Friedman
In this forceful and impassioned response to the Nation of Islam’s Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, Friedman combines his own extensive primary source research in American archives with the findings of David Brion Davis and hundreds of other distinguished scholars, to document conclusively “that Jews did not dominate the slave trade in the European colonies of South America and the Caribbean or the antebellum South.” . . . Friedman’s work systematically exposes the incendiary distortions and deliberate exaggerations that characterize the Nation of Islam’s antisemitic “Handbook of Hate.” — Choice
With drama and precision, award-winning historian Dray retrieves buried aspects of a precarious and little understood period in American history, the Reconstruction, a time of hope and backlash, and vividly portrays the first African American men to serve as U.S. congressmen, groundbreaking lawmakers who faced harrowing adversity. Dray’s fascination with all that he discovered, aspects of the past that illuminate the present in truly galvanizing ways, is palpable as he introduces readers to a furiously contentious world following the seismic rupture of the Civil War. — Booklist
Sent by his father to observe and evaluate his uncle’s South Carolina rice plantation as a possible business investment, New York Jew and fledgling entrepreneur Nathaniel Pereira is horrified by his first brush with the brutal realities of slavery. Especially struck by the irony of how a people who themselves lived in bondage for so long could now own slaves, he is torn between his conscience and his duty. His moral dilemma becomes even more complex after he becomes captivated by Liza, a beautiful slave who harbors a shattering secret. A parallel story, passed through the generations from mother to daughter, chronicles the odyssey of one slave family from sixteenth-century Timbuktu to the antebellum South. As the two narratives unfold, eventually becoming one, the tangled history of slavery and the enduring stain it left upon a nation founded on the principles of freedom and equality is evocatively illuminated. — Booklist
This title is also available as a downloadable ebook.
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Jones looks at slavery from an unusual angle. Henry Townsend is a former slave who was purchased and freed by his own father. Through hard work, he has acquired 50 acres of farmland in Virginia. Given the slave-based agricultural economy, Townsend believes that the logical (and legal) way to work the land is with slaves, and, eventually, he owns more than 30. Although he is less brutal than his neighbors, most of his slaves dream of escaping north. When they try, Townsend must pay the white patrollers to return them or be seen as irresponsible. But as rumors of bloody slave rebellions spread through the South, unscrupulous bounty hunters begin to round up free blacks, Native Americans, and white orphans along with the escapees. By focusing on an African American slaveholder, Jones forcefully demonstrates how institutionalized slavery jeopardized all levels of civilized society so that no one was really free. — Library Journal