Children of Fire by Thomas C. Holt
A History of African Americans

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Ordinary people don't experience history as it is taught by historians. They live across the convenient chronological divides we impose on the past. The same people who lived through the Civil War and the eradication of slavery also dealt with the hardships of Reconstruction, so why do we almost always treat them separately? In Children of Fire, renowned historian Thomas C. Holt challenges this form to tell the story of generations of African Americans through the lived experience of the subjects themselves, with all of the nuances, ironies, contradictions, and complexities one might expect.

Building on seminal books like John Hope Franklin's From Slavery to Freedom and many others, Holt captures the entire African American experience from the moment the first twenty African slaves were sold at Jamestown in 1619. Each chapter focuses on a generation of individuals who shaped the course of American history, hoping for a better life for their children but often confronting the ebb and flow of their civil rights and status within society. Many familiar faces grace these pages—Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, and Barack Obama—but also some overlooked ones. Figures like Anthony Johnson, a slave who bought his freedom in late seventeenth century Virginia and built a sizable plantation, only to have it stolen away from his children by an increasingly racist court system. Or Frank Moore, a WWI veteran and sharecropper who sued his landlord for unfair practices, but found himself charged with murder after fighting off an angry white posse. Taken together, their stories tell how African Americans fashioned a culture and identity amid the turmoil of four centuries of American history.


About Thomas C. Holt

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Thomas C. Holt is the James Westfall Thompson Professor of American and African American History at the University of Chicago. A past president of the American Historical Association, Holt has been a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of Black Over White, The Problem of Freedom, The Problem of Race in the Twenty-First Century, and co-author of Beyond Slavery.
Published September 27, 2011 by Hill and Wang. 458 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War, Travel. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers and many others all find their rightful place in the history, allowing Holt to smoothly reveal the evolution from the initial slaves at Jamestown to the civil-rights heroes that continued struggling for freedom generations later.

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Publishers Weekly

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Holt (Black over White), professor of American and African-American history at the University of Chicago, constructs an interlocking historical chain of the lives of Olaudah Equiano (1745–1797), Richard Allen (1761–1831), Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), and W.E.B.

Aug 16 2010 | Read Full Review of Children of Fire: A History o...

The Roanoke Times

It is also important to note that black soldiers fought valiantly in each of these wars (and every war since then), which gave rise to the belief that as a people they would one day gain full citizenship.

Oct 30 2011 | Read Full Review of Children of Fire: A History o...

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