Rolling Through Jordan

First, an apology for all the people who come here for Warcraft and Arrested Development clips--this has to be an especially boring day. 


With that said, I managed a used hardbound copy of Eugene Genovese's Roll Jordan Roll (10.95 at Book Culture!) and I'm finding it, well, frustrating. On the one hand, I really like the social history. I'm the kind of wierdo who actually appreciates an entire section exploring the overseer class in the antebellum South. By that same token, I've encountered the kind of broad, sweeping generalizations that always strike me as a red flag. Statements like these...

Any sensible master, notwithstanding all pretensions and professions, trusted his slaves against his overseer.

...just strike me as really broad. I don't mean to nitpick, but I find that generalizing is warning sign about the overall credibility of someone's thesis. A great argument, it seems to me, is always able to take in nuance and counter evidence and then answer it. 

I'm early in, so maybe I'm totally off. I'm curious as to how Genovese's book has held up over the years, and whether what I'm sensing actually is a problem. It's a fascinating book, that looks at slaves as more then simpleminded victims. I like that it breathes humanity into the South. I just find it a bit too certain of itself and argumentative. But I've been wrong before.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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