No matter how much people think they know about the slavery era, books like Slavery and the Making of America by James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton will unearth facts they didn't know. Experts in early black American history, the Hortons use narratives from the slaves themselves to provide much of the information here. While there are some expected personalities, the more compelling portraits highlight unfamiliar names such as John Roy Lynch, a former slave elected to the House of Representatives in 1872; Sergeant William Carney, the first black American winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, awarded for his service during the Civil War; and George Middleton, who became a commander of a black regiment in the Revolutionary War.
The Hortons show how slavery affected commerce and industry in both the North and South, how the nation was ensnarled in controversy regarding the practice almost from the beginning, and how the quandary over the fugitive slave issue frequently triggered ugly and brutal riots in Northern cities. They also detail a legacy of revolt and rebellion that counters the notion that most slaves accepted their fate without incident. As the accompanying book for this month's PBS television series, Slavery and The Making of America has set the bar extremely high for the documentary production.