Summer Reading: Slavery by Another Name/1434

the bookthe other book

Well its most definitely summer here at bwbs, and along with all the leisure, sun, and fun the season has in store, this is a really good time to catch up on the reading that you maybe just couldn’t quite fit in during the cold and wet months of the recent past.

First up there’s Slavery by Another Name, by the Wall Street Journal’s Atlanta Bureau chief, Douglas Blackmon. The narrative Blackmon weaves takes readers from the pre-Civil War south, where slave labor built not only the plantation riches of some ,but the everyday infrastructure all relied on, to the rise of industrial cities in the north like Chicago and New York where black backs were still breaking and being forced to break in order to create the industrialized engine that would make the U.S. a superpower.

Through Slavery by Another Name Blackmon shows that while the 13th constitutional amendment and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 made slavery illegal. It would indeed be another three or four generations before African descendants in the U.S. were not subject to unjust and unfair work practices supported by the government, leading corporations, and the implicit consent of communities across the nation.

Next up is 1434 ,by retired submarine commander, Gavin Menzies. Of Course everyone knows that Christopher Columbus didn’t really ‘discover’ America. People were here to greet his arrival,but Menzies goes a few steps further. Claiming that a Chinese fleet sailed to Italy in 1434 with a university’s worth of knowledge. Chinese sailors having ‘discovered’ America years before Chris, and beating out Portugal’s Ferdinand Magellan in being the first to circumnavigate the world, effectively sparked the European renaissance with maps and drawings that masters like da Vinci only built upon.

Menzies makes his claim on a common sense question. He asks how could European explores like Columbus or Magellan’s have maps of the ‘new world’ ? A world that until Chris or Ferdinand had gotten to, European eyes had never seen.

Menzies fills his text with ancient Chinese maps a very plausible route for a Chinese world voyage and even evidence that prominent European renaissance map makers were in a sense educated and trained by Chinese maps that made their way to Europe.

These books make not be the empty, soap opera(esque) beach novels sometimes associated with summer, but they will keep the analytical fires burning and the question everything attitude razor sharp.


~ by MikelJason on June 24, 2008.

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