My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Review: The 272: The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church

The 272: The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church The 272: The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church by Rachel L. Swarns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let’s get this out of the way first … slavery of any kind is evil; however, the underlying theme of this books is that the Catholic Church, specifically here in the American colonies, was somehow more duplicitous in their participation in this evil institution than any others of the majority … and that assertion was not demonstrated within this book … only implied.

The 272 are the slaves that were sold in 1838 by Georgetown University, a Jesuit learning institution that had poorly administered its finances to the point of near bankruptcy. That sale enabled to University to survive and eventually thrive to become the elite American college it is today. It is the contention of the author that this success is the foundation of the American Catholic Church today … a statement that is only marginally supported by the following story of the Mahoney family with respect to GU272. 

In fact, the work as a whole frequency engages in the fallacy of composition by uses the Jesuit order in Maryland as a representative of the entire Catholic Church … despite the order actually being suppressed and reorganized outside of the Church for part of that history. In reality, what we see if that the Catholic Church in Maryland (representing a minority of the total state population) largely conforms to the beliefs and mores of the majority Protestants in the state, largely under the silent toleration of the Vatican (the authors go nearly two centuries to find Church support for slavery which had by this time started to significantly erode). This is not intended to let the Church, the Jesuit order or Georgetown University off the hook … only that such poorly constructed arguments make any discussion and reconciliation more difficult.

There is a lot to be angry about here. In fact, this book is designed to play on emotions; therefore it is important to be on the lookout for presumed inferences that enable the misinterpretation of the context in order to elicit the emotional response desired. Unfortunately, the book also engages in apparent exaggeration of the facts for the same purpose (which serves to undermines the academic validated of the whole piece). One such example from Chapter 2 where the author state “By the early 1700s, enslaved Black people accounted for between two-thirds and three-quarters of Maryland’s workforce.” In fact, estimates of the slave population in Md for 1710 is only about 24% of the entire population … by 1755, nearly 40% of the state population were black; however, an estimated one-third of that number were actually free-blacks. Such exaggeration is hardly necessary to capture the evil that is chattel slavery and only serves to undermine trust in the later assertions by the authors.

Chapter 1: Arrivals
Chapter 2: A Church’s Captives
Chapter 3: Freedom Fever
Chapter 4: A New Generation
Chapter 5: The Promise
Chapter 6: A College on the Rise
Chapter 7: Love and Peril
Chapter 8: Saving Georgetown
Chapter 9: The Sale
Chapter 10: A Family Divided
Chapter 11: Exile
Chapter 12: New Roots
Chapter 13: Freedom
Chapter 14: The Profits

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#The272 #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.