“Children of Fire is simply brilliant. Thomas C. Holt has produced the first survey of African American history to rival John Hope Franklin and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham's From Slavery to Freedom. Masterfully structured and beautifully written, it reflects the mature work of a great historian with a firm and deep grasp of his subject. I learned something new on every page. It should be required reading not only of students of the African American experience, but of fellow historians as well. This is the crowning achievement of a storied career, the work of a sophisticated mind rendered in the most compelling rhetorical strategy.” Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
“A brilliant, sweeping portrait of Afro-American history that transports the reader from the first arrival of slaves in Virginia in 1619 to the election of President Barack Obama. Like Alex Haley's Roots, this historic publication vividly reminds us of the long, painful experience of violence that African-Americans have endured and survived. Thomas C. Holt's Children of Fire is a monumental work that should be required reading for every American.” William Ferris, Professor of History, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
“Thomas C. Holt has spent his lifetime pioneering in our understanding race and the significance of African Americans in the history of the United States. Simply brilliant, Holt's latest work is remarkable for its precision, intelligence, and heart. Delving into the real personal experiences of the people who create the narrative, this masterful book takes its place as the best synthesis of a complex story.” Orville Vernon Burton, author The Age of Lincoln
“A remarkable achievement! Thomas C. Holt has distilled a lifetime of research into this elegant and sweeping volume. With an authoritative voice and a sure hand, he redefines the black experience through the powerful stories of generations of African Americans.” Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.
“In the spirit of John Hope Franklin, Thomas C. Holt, in Children of Fire, resurrects the wonderful art of historical generalization embedded in richly contextualized stories of real people. Holt brings a wealth of learning and a graceful style to eight ‘generations' of the African American saga. In each case and time period we see black people transplanted, transformed, and sometimes triumphant in a history that is always unfinished and conflicted. For serious teachers of African American history, this book assumes the rank of best one volume work.” David W. Blight, author of Race and Reunion
“In this important new book, Thomas C. Holt offers a creative and thoughtful rethinking of the African American experience. Children of Fire illuminates previously unknown aspects of black life and then brilliantly reinterprets the entire history of black America, opening up unfamiliar fields of vision that allow us think anew.” Ira Berlin, author of The Making of African America
“Placing all U.S. history in rich international context, this mesmerizing book shows Thomas C. Holt at his best: wise, subtle, visionary. Children of Fire challenges many truisms about African American life. A new history for the 21st century.” Linda K. Kerber, author of No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies
“Children of Fire will immediately become a vital resource for all readers interested in studying and understanding African American history.” Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund
“Holt does resist the temptation to make this a purely academic trade book. The information provided is direct and he does not exploit the use scholarly terminology to impress readers . . . Every party with a desire to learn about the saga of African-Americans, in a concise manner, will benefit and appreciate this book.” Rosetta Codling, Atlanta Examiner
“Holt ably moves through several centuries, and in an attempt to hold on to all of these accounts, he employs pivotal moments as stepping stones to lead the reader through the complex web of history. The 1892 Chicago World's Fair is one example, as is the death of Frederick Douglass in 1895. The author is at his best in the final chapters, when he shifts his focus to the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. 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. A story many readers have heard before, but one rarely rendered with such eloquence.” Kirkus Reviews
Sweeping history of African-Americans' experiences in America from Jamestown to the present.
In the introduction, Holt (American and African-American History/Univ. of Chicago; The Problem of Race in the Twenty-first Century, 2001, etc.) questions previous authors' attempts at pigeonholing African-American history into "neat chronological boxes," much preferring to recount it in "generational units" in order to reveal how lives transcend historically imposed time periods. The author offers a people-first approach to history, in which those who lived serve as representatives for their time. Beginning with the slave trade, Holt soon catapults the reader from Africa to America, comparing African-Americans' minor role in the American Revolution alongside their significant role in the Civil War nearly a century later. The author notes that 38,000 blacks perished while fighting for the Union, "a mortality rate 35 percent greater than their white comrades." Yet the military pursuits of blacks in early America are only a single strand of a much greater story. Holt ably moves through several centuries, and in an attempt to hold on to all of these accounts, he employs pivotal moments as stepping stones to lead the reader through the complex web of history. The 1892 Chicago World's Fair is one example, as is the death of Frederick Douglass in 1895. The author is at his best in the final chapters, when he shifts his focus to the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. 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.
A story many readers have heard before, but one rarely rendered with such eloquence.