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21 February 2014

Tony Isabella: Review of 'The State of Jones'

Originally published September 8, 2009


Tony Isabella, a renowned comic professional, does book and comic reviews on the website World Famous Comics. Here is a great, short and sweet one of a startling book.

"After listening to one of the authors on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," I requested The State of Jones: The Small Southern County That Seceded from the Confederacy by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer [Doubleday; $27.50] from my library. The book is a fascinating and frequently horrifying account of the outnumbered, under-supplied Mississippi unionists defying the wealthy slave-owners who launched the American civil war to preserve their lavish lifestyles and their "right" to enslave other human beings. It's also the story of the heroic, remarkable Newton Knight and his two families, one white, one black.

This is a page turner, though the chronicles of brutality (on both sides of the conflict) and atrocities (more on the Confederate side) often forced me away from the book. At least when I was in school - and that was before and not long after the Civil Rights Act became law - our history books glossed over the darkest parts of this story. I never knew the Confederate leaders plundered the families of the poor soldiers pressed into fighting for a cause not their own or that those Southerners who sided with the Union were subjected to even worse treatment. I never knew that the racism of Andrew Johnson and the weariness of Ulysses S. Grant allowed these same Confederate monsters to reclaim their power shortly after the war and continue subjugating the poor. Sadly, the reality of the common man blindly following leaders who constantly act against his best interests is all too familiar to me. I see its like whenever the ignorant scream their Faux News talking points at "tea parties" and town hall meetings.

If I were a history teacher, The State of Jones would be required reading for my students. It's an exceptional work of non-fiction and, as such, it earns the full five Tonys."

Read more of his reviews here.

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