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* * *
Slave leader's Bible given to
a century, the descendants of one of
Virginia's oldest families have kept
a Bible that connected them to Nat
Turner, the slave who led the
bloodiest slave revolt in American
history. Maurice Person, a
descendant of people who were killed
during the Turner rebellion, and his
stepdaughter, Wendy Porter, decided
to give the small Bible to the
National Museum of African American
History and Culture."It didn't have
the home it deserved. It needed to
be in a place where it could be
seen," Porter said.
Members of Person's family and the
Francis family were among the
estimated 55 white Virginians killed
by Turner and his followers. One of
the family members, Lavinia Francis,
was hidden by the Francises' house
slaves. The gift launched an
investigation by museum experts to
pinpoint the Bible's origins. They
knew its provenance—kept in the
courthouse after Turner's trial and
execution in 1831. When Virginia's
Southampton County Courthouse was
being renovated in 1912, an official
asked the Person family whether it
wanted Turner's Bible. Person's
father, Walter, accepted the book
and displayed it on the family piano
for many years. Later, the family
put it in a safe-deposit box. . . .
Even with the ownership clear, the
museum did its due diligence. A
photograph of the Bible, identified
as Turner's, was taken in 1900 and
is part of the archives at the
University of Virginia. An affidavit
in 1969 by Harriet E. Francis, a
descendant of Lavinia Francis, is
also part of the university archives
. Nora Lockshin, a paper conservator for the
Smithsonian Institution Archives, examined the
paper, leather, ink and arrangement of the pages.
The book, which is a little larger than pocket-size,
is missing both covers, part of its spine and one
chapter. Its pages are yellowed, and there are
watermarks and mold. Because of its age, it cannot
be opened flat. "The paper is in good shape, and it
is a good, strong rag paper," Lockshin said. She
enhanced the 1900 photograph, matching the page in
the photo to a page in the book. "It matched the
pattern of stains." With the Turner Bible, Bunch
said, the museum will tell many stories about the
resistance to slavery and the compassion of slaves.—NewsLeader
* * *
* * *
The Price of Civilization
Reawakening American Virtue and
Jeffrey D. Sachs
The Price of Civilization is a
book that is essential reading for every
American. In a forceful, impassioned,
and personal voice, he offers not only a
searing and incisive diagnosis of our
country’s economic ills but also an
urgent call for Americans to restore the
virtues of fairness, honesty, and
foresight as the foundations of national
prosperity. Sachs finds that both
political parties—and many leading
economists—have missed the big picture,
offering shortsighted solutions such as
stimulus spending or tax cuts to address
complex economic problems that require
deeper solutions. Sachs argues that we
have profoundly underestimated
globalization’s long-term effects on our
country, which create deep and largely
unmet challenges with regard to jobs,
incomes, poverty, and the environment.
America’s single biggest economic
failure, Sachs argues, is its inability
to come to grips with the new global
economic realities. Sachs describes a
political system that has lost its
ethical moorings, in which ever-rising
campaign contributions and lobbying
outlays overpower the voice of the
citizenry. . . . Sachs offers a plan to
turn the crisis around. He argues
persuasively that the problem is not
America’s abiding values, which remain
generous and pragmatic, but the ease
with which political spin and
consumerism run circles around those
values. He bids the reader to reclaim
the virtues of good citizenship and
mindfulness toward the economy and one
* * *
The People Debate the Constitution,
By Pauline Maier
A notable historian
of the early republic, Maier devoted a
decade to studying the immense
documentation of the ratification of the
Constitution. Scholars might approach
her book’s footnotes first, but history
fans who delve into her narrative will
meet delegates to the state conventions
whom most history books, absorbed with
the Founders, have relegated to
obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local
counties and towns, they influenced a
convention’s decision to accept or
reject the Constitution. Their
biographies and democratic credentials
emerge in Maier’s accounts of their
elections to a convention, the political
attitudes they carried to the conclave,
and their declamations from the floor.
The latter expressed opponents’
objections to provisions of the
Constitution, some of which seem
anachronistic (election regulation
raised hackles) and some of which are
thoroughly contemporary (the power to
tax individuals directly). Ripostes from
proponents, the Federalists, animate the
great detail Maier provides, as does her
recounting how one state convention’s
verdict affected another’s. Displaying
the grudging grassroots blessing the
Constitution originally received, Maier
eruditely yet accessibly revives a
neglected but critical passage in
* * * *
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26 February 2012