in the shadow of liberty

I read In the Shadow of Liberty in just under two hours, over the course of two nights of elliptical sessions. It’s a quick read. I made a mistake making it my gym book, because holding a hardcover with one hand two nights in a row is a great recipe for finger pain and hand cramps.

This is good, but I don’t see it as quite as revolutionary and amazing as so many others seem to. That may be a result of the fact that, as a black person and a lifetime avid reader, even “untold” histories of black people are less astonishing (and less likely to have been unencountered) to me than they would to a white reader of any age. Davis makes a point at the beginning of the book of noting that he strove use the word “enslaved” over “slaves” in order to draw attention to the fact that these were people, not items, and to drive home how horrifying the institution of slavery was, which is all well and good, except that he’s not all that consistent with it. Further, he uses “servants” indiscriminately, and while more than once he points out that white people called slaves their servants and that is incredibly problematic, but he also does so himself, so I don’t think it’s really going to drive the point home. We all know from the Rue problem and others that white readers need racialized things yelled at them in print a million times before they actually see them.

I’m trying to figure out who this book is for. Continue reading