The Principles of Nature by Andrew Jackson Davis

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In the introduction, we’re given a description of Andrew Jackson Davis which would appeal to a phrenologist, as well as testimonials from his acquaintances. We’re told he was poor and barely educated, only attending a few months of school, so he only knows the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Although we’re also told he knows all the technical medical terms, so maybe he’s not as ignorant as they want us to believe. He’s only 20 years old.

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Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus by Russell E. Gmirkin

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According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the Pentateuch was composed in stages. The first source, written sometime between 850-800 BC, is called J because it refers to God by the name Jehovah/Yahweh. The second source, called E because it uses the name Elohim to refer to God, was combined with J between 850-750 BC. The third source, mostly the book of Deuteronomy, is called D and was written in 621 BC, if you take 2 Kings 22-23 at face value. The final source is the priestly source, or P, and was written in 458 BC if you take Nehemiah 8-10 at face value.

However, one of the problems with the Documentary Hypothesis is that it uses the Bible to date itself, rather than using external evidence like archaeology and other ancient texts. Also, biblical source criticism tends to assume the earliest possible date a text could have been written is when the text actually was written. In this book, Gmirkin applies classical source criticism to the Pentateuch to consider not only the earliest possible date, but also the latest possible date, using not just the Bible itself, but also external references to the Bible.

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Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

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Solomon Northup was born free in New York. He married and did various jobs to earn money, such as working on a canal, cutting up lumber, rafting, and playing the violin. He eventually earned enough money to buy a farm. His wife became known as a cook. He also worked driving a hack and did work on the railroad. He advised any slaves he spoke to to seek freedom whenever they found the opportunity. He had a ten-year-old and eight-year-old daughter, as well as a five-year-old boy.

One day, two men who claimed to work at a circus offered him a job playing violin. He went with them to Washington D.C. where he witnessed the funeral of President Harrison (the cannon fire which was part of the ceremony broke windows with the noise). He never saw the circus, though. The men offered him a drink which made him sick. He fell unconscious and woke up in chains, his money and free papers gone.

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A Promised Land by Barack Obama

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“If you wanted good government, then expertise mattered. You needed public institutions stocked with people whose job it was to pay attention to important stuff so the rest of us citizens didn’t have to. And it was thanks to those experts that Americans could worry less about the quality of the air we breathed or the water we drank, that we had recourse when employers failed to pay us the overtime we were due, that we could count on over-the-counter drugs not killing us, and that driving a car or flying on a commercial airplane was exponentially safer today than it had been just twenty or thirty or fifty years ago. The ‘regulatory state’ conservatives complained so bitterly about had made American life a hell of a lot better.

“That’s not to say that every criticism of federal regulation was bogus. There were times when bureaucratic red tape burdened businesses unnecessarily or delayed innovative products from getting to market. Some regulations really did cost more than they were worth.”

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs

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This was originally published anonymously, so the author goes by the name of Linda. Her father was a carpenter. His master hired him out and allowed him to keep some of the money he earned. He saved up and wanted to buy his children’s freedom, but he wasn’t allowed to. Her maternal grandmother was freed at her master’s death, but she got captured and sold to another, so even if a slave master freed his slaves at death, that was no guarantee they’d stay free. Her grandmother, who made money selling crackers, also wanted to purchase the freedom of her children, but her mistress borrowed the money from her and never paid her back.

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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“I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood-clotted cowskin.” Continue reading

Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington

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“With few exceptions, the Negro youth must work harder and must perform his tasks even better than a white youth in order to secure recognition.”

Booker T. Washington was born a slave. He never learned his father’s name, but heard reports that his father was a white man who lived on one of the near-by plantations. He grew up in a cabin that was so drafty, there were at least half a dozen places that could serve as cat-holes. The floor of the cabin was bare earth except for one hole used to store sweet potatoes covered with boards. It was very cold in the winter and heat from the open fireplace made it too hot in the summer. For a bed, the children slept on a bundle of filthy rags. Continue reading

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

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White people are uncomfortable talking about race because it challenges our identity as unique and objective people. We get defensive and might insist that we’re the ones who are really being oppressed. We want to believe that we aren’t racist and any suggestion that we benefit from racist systems makes us angry or makes us not want to talk about it. However, not talking about it preserves the system that gives us privilege.
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