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    Sunday, June 21, 2015

    Slavery Throughout History Reference Library: Almanac

    Two of a proposed three-volume set (a primary sources volume will appear later), the Almanac and Biographies share almost identical time-line and "words to know" sections. Both volumes attempt to cover the subject worldwide, from ancient times to the present, yet both suffer from generalizations, poor editing, and careless scholarship.Biography has a more specific focus; it presents "30 men and women who made an impact . . . on slavery or who were profoundly affected by it." Alphabetically arranged from Afonso I of Kongo to Denmark Vesey, it is an attractive work whose text is sprinkled with black-and-white photos and sidebars. "Further reading" at the end of each entry includes books, periodicals, and Web sites. Controversial issues, such as Sally Hemings' relationship to Thomas Jefferson, are fairly presented, and descriptions of sex in slavery, such as Haksun Kim's experience as a Japanese "comfort woman," are appropriate for sixth grade and older.However, limiting coverage to these 30 individuals is problematic. Evidently they were chosen to present as broad a picture of slavery as possible, but why St. Patrick and not Dred Scott or Roger Taney? The connection between slavery and individuals like Sacagawea and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is not always made clear, and mixing biblical and historical accounts is sure to confuse young readers further. The Almanac volume is divided into 12 chapters, most of which discuss slavery in the U.S. The more than 100 photos and maps, adequate bibliography and indexing, and information current to 1999 should have made this volume a winner. Unfortunately, its value is diminished by inconsistencies (Nebuchadrezzar is the form used in the text but Nebuchadnezzar is used in the index) and oversimplifications. There are several references to the "five 'slave societies' in the history of the human race" (Ancient Greece and Rome, Brazil, Cuba, and the U.S.) but no real explanation of why these particular five are identified as such. There is no mention of slavery in Mayan, Incan, and Aztec societies.There is nothing comparable at the middle-school level that provides such a worldview on slavery, but these volumes are disappointing additions to an always-popular topic.
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    Item Reviewed: Slavery Throughout History Reference Library: Almanac Rating: 5 Reviewed By: asar tehuti
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