Read All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw by Theodore Rosengarten Online


All God's Dangers won the National Book Award in 1975. "On a cold January morning in 1969, a young white graduate student from Massachusetts, stumbling along the dim trail of a long-defunct radical organization of the 1930s, the Alabama Sharecropper Union, heard that there was a survivor and went looking for him. In a rural settlement 20 miles or so from Tuskegee in east-cAll God's Dangers won the National Book Award in 1975. "On a cold January morning in 1969, a young white graduate student from Massachusetts, stumbling along the dim trail of a long-defunct radical organization of the 1930s, the Alabama Sharecropper Union, heard that there was a survivor and went looking for him. In a rural settlement 20 miles or so from Tuskegee in east-central Alabama he found him—the man he calls Nate Shaw—a black man, 84 years old, in full possession of every moment of his life and every facet of its meaning. . . . Theodore Rosengarten, the student, had found a black Homer, bursting with his black Odyssey and able to tell it with awesome intellectual power, with passion, with the almost frightening power of memory in a man who could neither read nor write but who sensed that the substance of his own life, and a million other black lives like his, were the very fiber of the nation's history." —H. Jack Geiger, New York Times Book Review  ...

Title : All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw
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ISBN : 22674393
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 575 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw Reviews

  • Mark
    2018-11-24 04:30

    This book is absolutely incredible and everyone, especially Americans, should read it. No offense, but the reader who makes the comment that the book, told in Nate Shaw's voice, was confusing because of the colloquialisms should, in my humble opinion, be ignored. I admit, it was a bit jarring at first, but then after a while it's like having his voice inside your head and that is the whole point. You get to know how this man's mind works and you see the society through his eyes. This man tells it like it is and the truths that he comes to realize as a poor illiterate farmer in Alabama are those that many in this country do not want to look at to this day. His voice is a resounding trumpet for the oppressed and I don't see how any that have heard it could help but question the immoral foundation that this country was built upon. He came to the conclusion of the necessity for a socialist society without ever having read a book on the subject, just by keeping his eyes open and being lead by the compass of his soul. It's powerful stuff and should be taught alongside Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Brown, and James Baldwin. It is brilliant social critique in its purest form. The man was colossal and his story is epic.

  • Brian
    2018-11-16 04:42

    This review contains spoilers.This review is quite long. Here is a tl;dr: Ned Cobb (1885-1973), also known as Nate Shaw, was a black farmer in Alabama. Ned succeeded in life despite mistreatment and the horrible racism of the American South during the Jim Crow years. He fought constantly against the blackguards who hated his skin. The man is an inspiration.And here's a little something I wrote after reading this book and listening to too much Dylan, Guthrie—father and son—and Seeger.Talkin' Ned Cobb BluesNed Cobb was a good man who hid his name for no good reasonwhen a white college kid paid a visit in the middle of his busy season, and said,"I'm recording the voices of poor ol' boys and maybe you'd like to be heard.""Yes, sir, the voice of the blowin' wind is too soft for Tallapoosa."He'd been bewildered and confused by three hundred years of abuse. Cursed into the womb by his worn out father, Ned was taught to go no fartherthan the plow at his shoes. So he pushed that dirtwhile plucking the feathers from the absurd Jim Crow bird."I'm not afraid of Alabama! Hear the howlin' train that carries my new bosses home! Walk in the sour field they gave me in the corner! In the corner, turn around and listen—my masters' tongues whip and moan."My cotton was stolen for a fistful of nickels by those foul, fickle bastards. The Union helped us weave ourselves some dignity from the tatters of our dusty, brown souls. So we did, and my loyalty to anything else ain't never comin' back."And now I'm old. By the same rail track, in the rusty arms of this wooden barn, I remember. The white men said, 'That nigger ain't a thing more than his daddy was, but a displaced slave too bold.'"But I came up. I don't hold anything against those who treated me ill, though they might hate me still. I was the man I wanted to be, the man my masters didn't want to say was real."Photo taken by me in rural North Carolina.And now for my full review. I have done my best to cite the page number of all quotations from the book.5/5 — Somebody Got to Stand UpNate Shaw is a name once buried deeply in history’s annals. Slowly, since the man’s departure from this world in 1973, his story has found its way to a more proper place in the records of rural America. Nate Shaw was not a great political figure or a leader of a revolution. Nor did he lead an economic transition or attend a technological change. Shaw, though very intelligent, was illiterate with no formal education. However, Nate Shaw deserves his narrative to be heard not in spite of, but due to the fact of his normality. He lived in the South during a time of sweeping changes in social and agricultural terms. These factors had long been a part of the rural South. A change in any of them meant a change in life for all—agriculture affected everyone. Nate Shaw played a role in this particular act of the American saga. His story is gripping, heartbreaking, and important to history. The story is his own, but it is also the story of many black people. The only difference is that Nate Shaw was fortunate in finding ways to make a lasting impact on those around him, and for the future.The first of his fortunes was the remarkable life he led. The second, which he probably considered his greatest blessing, was the opportunity to tell the story of that life to the world. This was achieved by way of Theodore Rosengarten, a student and author of history. Rosengarten’s 1974 book All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw serves as Nate’s autobiography. Unable to record his own narrative, Nate delighted Rosengarten through dozens of interviews, laying out his life for future publication. After thirty-one sessions and more than 120 hours of discussion, Nate had imparted the core of his plot, Rosengarten implying that Nate—a wealth of information—surely had more to give. Regardless of that fact, Nate Shaw’s autobiography stuns the reader with his story. Rosengarten merely acted as transcriber and editor.Nate was already fifteen as the twentieth century was born. His short life had been dominated by economic and emotional hardship. His mother died when he was nine, and his brother a year later. Living by the order of white men, his family had always been poor. Nate first learned of the realities of race in America by way of his older relatives, many of whom had lived before slaves were officially freed, or, as Nate remembered his kin calling the event, “the surrender” (7). As soon as Nate was able to think for himself, he saw firsthand the disadvantages before him. Compounding his adverse fate was his father, named Hayes, the man who influenced Nate more than anything else.Nate’s mother was a kindly woman, humble and weak, but willing to stand up to her abusive husband in defense of her children. Nate never recalls hunger while his mother was alive. Afterward, however, due to his father, he and his siblings often survived on small, tasteless meals, with bread their main sustenance. His father was a selfish man, taking not only all the meat the family had but also every bit of labor available—utilizing the only resources he could draw from, his second wife and several children. Hayes' wife and sons were forced to work in the fields with expectations of work equivalent to adult men. Hayes paid little respect to any system of morals. He cheated on his wives constantly, beat all members of his family, and avoided work as much as possible. In all of this came Nate’s first lesson from his father: moral principles. Nate had a natural awareness and sentimentality about him that enabled the growth of ethics despite such a harsh childhood. He understood the importance of integrity by defining himself as a man unlike his father.The other lesson Nate’s father unwittingly instilled in him was that of strong work ethics. Nate was in the field at nine years old. He quickly learned the sacrifice, and therefore, value, of hard work. He knew that he was a black man in a white man’s world—his labor was perhaps his lone asset. There is another facet to this second lesson, however; Nate also learned just how dubious and genuinely dangerous white men could be. It was the first decades of the twentieth century, when segregation and racial exploitation were common throughout the United States, and the norm in most of the South. Nate remembers his father twice being stripped of his money and property. For example, his father kept cattle that a white man, Mr. Albee, owned by way of credit given to Hayes. Mr. Albee agreed to let Hayes sell one of the cows to earn a little profit. As soon as Hayes did, however, Mr. Albee accused him of selling “mortgaged property” (28). Events such as these also lent Nate insight to the business side of farming. If his father had acquired a written statement from Mr. Albee allowing him to sell the cow, he would have been unable to trick Hayes. Such experiences helped Nate to understand the dangers that unscrupulous white men could inflict in such a prejudiced world, legally and otherwise. Though Nate’s father was rough, even cruel at times, and generally unprincipled, Nate came from his troubled youth with wisdom.Nate’s suspicion of corrupt white men carried over into adulthood. As tenant farmers, he and his father had been misused by such men. Often, landowners such as a Mr. Clay would hire black families. They would be given crops to manage, but received little to none of the yield. For Hayes and Nate, there was nothing to be done about the situation. It was “just somethin to keep us alive while he was workin for nothin” (30). In all of this, Nate witnessed the realities of the rural South, both agriculturally and socially. White men often controlled blacks as though they were still in bondage, no better in their eyes than chattel. It was extremely difficult for blacks to earn any type of true financial independence in Alabama because they would rely on the mercy of the landowning whites. Nate remarked often of his father: “He wasn’t a slave but he lived like one” (33). The truth of life in the rural South for African Americans was all too well known to Nate even by the time he was a teenager. The mentality that resulted affected the remainder of his life.Nate worked under his father until he married at the age of twenty-one in 1906. He had learned much about farming from his work under various white landowners. Unfortunately, Nate was sometimes unable to practice what he knew were the best farming methods due to his employers’ intransigence. Nate never received a proper education, but had acquired a great knowledge of land, crops, animals, and farming techniques. He knew how to fertilize, where to plant the right crops, and how to produce an ample yield. Whenever he tried to apply his wealth of knowledge, intolerable landowners often suppressed him. Nate obviously held a deep resentment to his racist, dishonest employers. But this is not to say that he was a racist himself. Nate practiced unwavering morals throughout his life. He disliked the men not due to their being members of the white race, but because they utilized that attribute to their benefit in an entrenched system of racial inequality in the rural South. Nate considered himself fair to everyone. It is a large stain of shame on the history of rural America that such a man was burdened with this undue lot in life. But, here is where Nate’s story finds its greatest worth. Despite his subjugation, it proved impossible to stop Nate. His employers constantly tried to take advantage of his ignorance and lack of education. Even after he became an independent man, he was in debt to his white landowning bosses. They attempted many times to orchestrate his financial ruin. Contracts would be written with great disadvantage for Nate; he would be given the worst parcel of land on which to grow crops necessary to his survival; his status as a black man was the basis for incessant abuse in the market, on the roads, and in the fields. In the face of all this, however, Nate remained a dignified black farmer. Due to his hard work and great knowledge of land and animals, his money slowly accrued. Naturally, any white racists who previously held enmity for Nate found themselves with a greater hatred after his financial success. Nate saw the way white men reacted to his material prosperity. They didn’t want a black man to possess anything they didn’t have, but Nate did: excess meat, new buggies and mules, and two new cars in the late 1920s. He recalled, “The white people was afraid—I’ll say this: they was afraid the money would make the nigger act too much like his own man. Nigger has a mind to do what’s best for hisself, same as a white man. If he had some money, he just might do it” (264). Nate relied on cotton for the bulk of his profit, but supplementary income from other jobs helped him achieve economic independence. He visited town once a week to sell butter, milk, eggs, vegetables, and so forth; he also often hauled lumber, kept bees for honey, and wove baskets to sell. During World War I, cotton prices rose to a new high, and he prospered further. After the war and throughout the 1920s, prices dropped to a fraction of what they had been. It was a tough time for rural farmers, especially once the Great Depression began. Many of Nate’s friends and acquaintances left Alabama for better hopes farther north. Nate never considered leaving. He knew a great deal about farming, but little else, so his chances were better in Alabama than elsewhere. Here is where his story takes a stark turn—where his narrative reaches the proverbial climax for the main character. In 1931, Nate heard of a union dedicated to farmers such as him, the Sharecroppers Union. Nate sensed the winds of change whipping around him, and decided he should look into such a group. “And I knowed what was goin on was a turnabout on the southern man, white and colored; it was somethin’ unusual. And I heard about it bein a organization for the poor class of people—that’s just what I wanted to get into, too” (296). Whites were immediately concerned about such an organization. Nate was warned not to join, but did so anyway—he saw it as a real opportunity for change. As far as Nate could see, the Sharecroppers Union had no strict agenda or plans other than to guide black farmers in supporting one another through times of trouble. That was enough to convince Nate that he needed to be a part of the union; it was more than anyone else had done for black farmers. With communist leanings, the group met with collective support as their basic tenet. This was a major step for Alabama sharecroppers. Afraid of their white employers, and paranoid about one another, blacks had previously been unable to effect change. As more joined the Sharecroppers Union, they began to form an identity. As they came together, so, too, did their common desire for true freedom.The union met secretly. Nate was unable to recall the name of the “teacher,” or the leader of the union meetings, but his words motivated Nate. Throughout his life, Nate had witnessed the dreadful condition of the black man in the rural South. At this time, he grasped a sense of great urgency for change. He had stood up humbly and respectfully to his would-be oppressors since he came into adulthood, but this union would be his vehicle for a more definite remedy. Succinctly put, “Somebody got to stand up” (307). The meetings began to thrive, which the white community inevitably discovered. They were afraid of the effects such a union would have on blacks. It was an unjust and discriminatory fear when simply measured by the nature of the white population's concern; but, the fear was justified in terms of the nascent social change detected. As we have clearly seen through Nate’s eyes, for decades after slavery was officially claimed abolished, blacks in Alabama maintained no higher status and were treated just as poorly by many whites as they had been under slavery. As the Sharecroppers Union began to have influence in Nate Shaw’s Alabama, it met head-on with this deeply established social, cultural, and economic system. Fear was the prime motivator on both sides—blacks were afraid of white men’s undue and unchecked authority; whites feared collapse of the social hierarchy and their supremacy therein. It was a time of great anxiety and concern for the future.For Nate and his community, these new emotions and the old, deep-seated animosities converged in 1932 to form the apex of Nate’s story. His friend, Virgil Jones, was a poor sharecropper, in debt but always hardworking to sustain his family. Jones’ employer had dispatched the sheriff to collect his stock. Essentially, all of his property and means of livelihood were to be repossessed. However, this was not solely a matter of business but an act of aggression and intimidation toward members of the Sharecroppers Union. In such seizures, Nate knew that he and others would follow. He decided to stand up to the sheriff by attempting to politely negotiate the situation. This proved impossible. Both parties left after a brief altercation, only to confront one another later in the day. A shootout occurred in which three shotgun blasts to Nate’s hindquarters impelled self-defense. He fired back, but injured no one as the police ran away. After his arrest, the International Labor Defense, which was associated with the Sharecroppers Union, sent a lawyer to defend Shaw. Nate knew it was virtually hopeless. He witnessed the injustice that plagued the Scottsboro Boys, a group of nine young black men falsely accused of raping two white women. Some of the women recanted their stories, and there was no medical evidence of rape. However, as Nate points out, the legal system was not inclined to provide justice for blacks. Like the Scottsboro Boys, his full story was not allowed to be heard, and he did not receive a fair trail. Nate was sentenced to twelve years in prison. He was offered parole on the terms that he would turn over his farm and leave Tallapoosa. Nate refused. He served his full sentence instead. Nate Shaw returned to his farm in 1945. Enduring opposition for years afterward, he continued to succeed by his ingenuity and steadfastness.The consequences of Nate Shaw’s story are heavy and abundant. By cooperating in a scheme of activist populism, he represents the struggle of thousands of poor black agriculturalists in the rural American South. With no political means of defending their inherent rights as full citizens, blacks had to take up the cause by their own efforts. Men such as Nate Shaw were fundamental to any type of movement that attempted social change. While incident over Virgil Jones’ property was taking place, he stood to face his white oppressors when the police came; everyone else ran. Nate was not afraid. He knew that he was right, that the actions of a Jim Crow Alabama were wrong, and he blocked attempts to suppression and manipulation. Nate had acted with this sense of valid defiance all of his life: tacitly as a boy, explicitly as a man. Most black farmers did not succeed financially as did Nate Shaw. In this, we see his tenacity and skill. However, his plight for equality was common to all black farmers in the South. For some, it was a struggle of achieving parity; others were simply trying for the ability to freely strive for that goal. In most cases, that hope was lost. Nate’s father was born a slave and, as Nate saw it, died a slave. Many chose not to fight. They lived in a world hostile to their being, and they acquiesced to longstanding racism. A few, like Nate Shaw, used any scarce assets they had, namely their bodies and minds. For such men in Alabama, hard work, self-respect, and community efforts like the Sharecroppers Union served as their instruments for change.

  • Diane
    2018-12-06 04:35

    Theodore Rosengarten stumbled upon Nate Shaw, by chance, when Nate Shaw was 85 years old and living in his home and only state of Alabama. Although Nate, his real name being Ned Cobb, could not read or write, his memory for his eight and a half decades on this earth was impeccable. Mr. Rosengarten sat down with him on several occasions and recorded his life and made an autobiography out of his story. That story is contained in the 600 pages of All God's Dangers.Nate Shaw lived during the time after slavery, during segregation, and was a prominent supporter of the Sharecroppers Union (SCU). Because of his simple yet dignified stance in life, he was thrown in jail for almost two decades of his life for simply being a black man and standing up for what he believed was his god given right: to protect and keep that which was rightfully his. Contained within the book is anecdotal stories about how the dynamic between the whites and black lived in the south and how they were treated in respect to one another. It also showed how, despite the elimination of slavery, the blacks were kept down and were unable to rise past their "station" in life. For that reason, Nate Shaw's life and autobiography is invaluable. It shows us a window into the past, in one section of our vast country, during a period of time where humans were created equal, but were not treated so.Unfortunately, in my opinion, the story is long-winded and can be incredibly boring. Like most lives, Nate's isn't exactly chock full of high drama and excitement. Nothing against him or against Rosengarten who, undoubtedly, found every word Nate uttered fascinating as he got to know him. It's about three hundred pages too long and Nate's reciprocal nature of story telling takes up a lot of room. For this is not just a story of Nate, it's a story of farming, sharecropping, picking cotton, working with a lumber company, weaving baskets, and about mules. All the same, the biographical text is important to own and have as a window into the U.S.A.'s past and its hopes for the future.

  • Rhonda
    2018-11-12 08:41

    I was profoundly touched by this biography of Nate Cobb, aka Nate Shaw. What a great storyteller he was and such an honorable man! With Integrity, dignity, humour, and wisdom, Nate narrates his life as a poor black man from the 1880's through to the Civil Rights Movement. Although he was illiterate, Nate's keen observational skills and his innate intelligence bring insight into the rural culture of the Southern US, especially the relationship between the whites and blacks at that time. Rosengarten transcribed and edited the hours of recordings he made of Mr Cobb with such deftness and sensitivity that I often forgot I was reading a book. Nate's 'voice' had such authenticity that I could almost hear him speaking aloud. I applaud Dr. Rosengarten's successful quest to bring understanding and clarity to this little known era in American history.

  • Carol Jean
    2018-11-26 03:36

    WWWEEEELLLLLL....I wanted to like this book more than I did. It's a very detailed and moving first person account of the life of a black man whose father was a freed slave. However, the recorder of this oral history could have edited it much more tightly. I appreciate that he has tried to maintain the rhythm and the digressive patterns of Mr. Shaw's story telling, but in the process he has included so many repetitions that the narrator began to feel to me like an overly chatty person seated next to me on an eight-hour flight. I have to admit, I speed-read parts of it.Still, an interesting picture of the coming of age of a free man who has the intelligence to realize what he must do to prosper.

  • Bertport
    2018-12-04 02:35

    Nate Shaw is indeed a gifted story teller. His pace and timing and rhythm have depth and structure, like a good bourbon. I have long loved Huckleberry Finn, but I like this better. He grows up mostly used and abused by his father (as Huck was by Pap), and submits far longer than he has to, in a Confucian sort of filial respect more for the principle of fatherhood than the man. He allows his father to direct all his labor, to hire him out and to collect all his earnings, until the day he turns twenty-one, upon which he marries and moves out. Not that he believes his father is right to take all this from him, but he feels he would be wrong to refuse what his father asks of him. Even after that, once he gets on his feet and begins to prosper, he occasionally and on demand gives his father (who has fathered more children by another wife, but has little interest in earnest work to feed them) freely from the fruits of his labor. He draws the line at wasting a work day in idle chat with his shiftless father.Here's Shaw with some native-born economic theory, a fundamental question of capital and labor:"Now it's right for me to pay you for usin what's yours - your land, stock, plow tools, fertilize. But how much should I pay? The answer ought to be closely seeked. How much is a man due to pay out? Half his crop? A third part of his crop? And how much is he due to keep for hisself? You got a right to your part - rent; and I got a right to mine. But who's the man ought to decide how much? The one that owns the property or the one that works it?"Shaw understands that he should work to earn a living and to help take care of himself, his wife, his children, and extended family. He understands that if there is profit from his labor, he should retain some of it. His first two sharecropping arrangements fail to satisfy, as the landowners leave him with nothing beyond debts paid at the end of the year. The third is better, and in telling this part of his life story, he comments, "there's some good white people in this country."A friend of mine notices the moral element in these comments, and thinks Shaw ignores the more realistic "empirical" questions, which are, what actually controls the value of his labor? Friend says it's supply and demand. The first significant shot over the bow of the good ship Free Market in Shaw's narrative is his struggle with Mr. Tucker. In a twist of fate reminiscent of what happened to slaves of a "good master" who died, Shaw owes money to Mr. Reeve, one of the "good white people", and on Reeve's death, Mr. Tucker buys all of Mr. Reeve's outstanding accounts due. Whenever anyone borrowed money from Mr. Reeve, terms of repayment were clear, but Mr. Tucker preferred other methods. He set the tone at the start with a flagrant 10% cheat, which Shaw protested but lacked the power to repudiate. Tucker required all his debtors to make their purchases in town with merchants designated by Tucker, on Tucker's account. Most of these colored debtors possessed little arithmetic, but in any case Tucker kept them in the dark as to how he calculated their debts. Once a year he had each of them sign a new note, with terms that were not explained to them. Shaw understood the disadvantage this put him under, but could do nothing about it. After five years, he owed Tucker $500. "Five years labor I gived that man, and still I owed him five hundred dollars." He doesn't come right out and say this number is a cheat, because he knows he lacks the information to assert it positively, but the understanding is implicit. Finally, Shaw gets his chance. It is 1914, and war has driven up the price of cotton. Just as Shaw has his wagon full of this year's harvest all baled up for sale, Tucker shows up in urgent need of cash. Shaw sells his cotton and receives a check for $569. He asks Tucker to go with him to the bank. The bank has Tucker's notes which give him control over his debtors, because he has mortgaged the notes for other wheeling deals. In front of the banker, Shaw asks Tucker what he owes him. $500.01, but he'll accept the $500 and overlook the penny. Shaw hands the banker the check and asks him to pay Tucker all he owes him out of it. That done, Shaw asks for the note he just paid off. Tucker mumbles and hesitates, and Shaw worries. He reflects that if the white men refuse to give him the note, there is nothing he can do about it. But after a few moments, the banker tells Tucker that Shaw gets the note. The fateful moment rested in the conscience of the banker, and Shaw felt immense relief. At this point, Tucker wanted Shaw to sign a new note. Shaw refused to do so, rebuffing repeated attempts at persuasion. Later, when it came time to buy guano for his next crop, Shaw found that none of the guano dealers in town would sell to him directly. They all said he could only buy through Mr. Tucker. This was Tucker's new tactic to force Shaw back into peonage. Fortunately, there was another guano dealer, not in this town but reachable at the time, who had done business with Shaw many years back, and with his assistance, Shaw was able to tear down the cartel wall. This story offers some answers to empirical questions of the worth of labor vs. the worth of capital. Supply and demand are rarely frictionless and transparent. Dishonesty and exploitation can and do enter into the dynamic, depending in part on the moral character of the participants.As if it were a well crafted work of fiction, All God's Dangers builds and weaves from here. This incident foreshadows and prefigures the greater crisis to come, in which a new and worse villain wreaks havoc on Shaw, by similar but escalated means. Mr. Watson tries for years to take all Shaw's property from him by pretty much the same means used by Tucker, but Brer Rabbit Shaw evades him. Things come to a head with two significant developments: the coming of a suppressed, secretive Alabama Sharecroppers Union, and word that come fall, Watson will take every bit of property possessed by Shaw and another black man, a neighbor, Virgil Jones. The Union is banned by the white people, blacks being forbidden to assemble in any way except in church on Sundays. Those who join, meet in secret, and eye each other warily in fear of informants. When Watson comes with the local sheriff and a small armed gang to take Virgil Jones' property, Shaw defies them. A Mr. Platt fills Shaw's backside with shot, and Shaw fires back with a pistol at Platt, who, standing behind a tree, is unharmed. Shaw flees, but is taken before long.Shaw goes to jail, and the International Labor Defense, white Northerners, takes up his case. A Mr. Stein meets with him every three weeks for the five months before trial. Other blacks involved in the union variously fled or were arrested and then forswore the union. "[Lawyer Stein] come there and told me one time, 'Shaw -' he didn't call me Nate, he called me Shaw - 'Shaw, you the best man we got, we goin to stick with you. We may can't pull you out of it, though; their laws down here is their laws - we got that throwed up against us. We may can't pull you out of it but we goin to stick with you.'"Of course, Stein is right, and Shaw gets a twelve-to-fifteen year sentence. He is treated decently in prison, barring a few bad apples, and he is positive that he was protected by the watchful eye of union leadership. But he also took care to behave well and give the prison authorities no cause for hostility. In fact, he earns their respect and trust. I think another factor in the harmonious relationships he maintains is that he has nothing for them to take from him but his labor, which he yields up unstintingly. Outside prison, he had property - livestock, tools, a wagon, etc. - and lived amongst petty white bullies who followed well established patterns of exploitation to rob colored people. Shaw has a strong sense of property rights, that he should be able to keep what he has earned by his own labor. That is the principle for which he was willing to go to jail, and it occasions one of his few conflicts with a prison guard (happily resolved by a sensible warden). The prison properties included fields and forests, and everyone was given work to do, and from Shaw's narrative it seemed to be real work that fit the prisoner's abilities. As time went on, Shaw was granted regular leave to go home on weekends and some other occasions. Of course, Shaw would have chosen freedom to live with his family and to work for their benefit, but all in all, the penal system was remarkably humane, compared to my impression of today's American system, and of course to the stock image of chained men in striped pajamas wielding picks on the roadside.Twelve years is a big chunk of time out of a person's life, and Shaw's life after prison seems to lack the drive and focus it had before. His children are grown and don't depend on him any more. He and his wife remain close and loving until her death. Shaw's narrative becomes looser too, more rambling and scattered, but making its way towards a new end, the end we all reach eventually. His prose still rewards a sipping pace through the rest of the book. On page 484, prompted by the discovery of a 2700 acre parcel that is only one of many that some man owns, he wonders why any one person should have more land than he can work. "I have studied that for many years and I don't know the answer today." His anecdotes usually have a point that comes out in his reflections. Shaw knows that his life stories are not about himself. Occasionally the federal government helps the poor man and the black man, offering him an alternative source of credit, on fair and clear terms; petty local authorities resent it. White-black relations, in Alabama and in Philadelphia (where one son went to live), are considered at length and repeatedly, and so are rich-poor relations. Shaw finds that rich-poor can trump white-black. Individual character always matters, and there are those who treat others respectfully and fairly regardless of race and wealth; but race and wealth set overall patterns and determine who can take advantage of whom if they have a mind to.

  • Ed
    2018-12-11 06:38

    This is a remarkable book. Rosengarten has allowed Nate Shaw to tell his life story in his own words and in his own way. Some people will undoubtedly get impatient with Nate's way of telling his story. "Do I really need to know that much about mules." I read the book in short stretches, often stopping when I got bored. I couldn't resist going back to read more. I felt as though I knew Nate and, after a while, almost as if I had an obligation to hear him out. Nate Shaw was a remarkable man. Getting to know him is reason enough to read this book. But the reader will also have a chance to experience what it was like for an illiterate, black sharecropper to live and work in Alabama in the first half of the twentieth century.

  • Susan
    2018-12-11 08:37

    I fell in love with Nate Shaw. The story of Nate Shaw is amazing. He is a real man. His story is the same story so many oppressed people have experienced. His story is the same story many people in other countries are experiencing now due to the corporate world continuing to seek cheap labor to exploit. This story is told from the perspective of Nate Shaw. There are few accounts like it and when I see what is happening in Jamacia, in India, big corporations seek to control what food people can grow from what seeds and to whom they can sell...I think of Nate Shaw. Despite the absolute underhanded scenerios Nate was forced to endure, he managed to take care of his family and have an attitude unlike many of us could maintain. There is much to be learned from this book.

  • Cathy
    2018-11-12 07:28

    I loved reading Nate Shaw's stories in his oral autobiography. I am disappointed that I won't be "hearing" him anymore, and getting just a small grasp on the difficult life of a black sharecropper, son of a man born in slavery. It's really remarkable and different from just about anything I've ever read. Nate was illiterate and didn't have two nickels to rub together, but he stood up for what he believed in and contributed to the better conditions blacks live under today - and spent twelve years in prison for it. The New York Times essay summarizes the book and the back story better than I can:

  • Graeme Roberts
    2018-11-12 00:47

    Boring in extremis, but probably interesting to anthropologists, writers doing research, and overzealous lovers of humanity.

  • Melina Martin
    2018-11-21 03:23

    Rating this book would be like rating a person, something I don't feel myself qualified to do.

  • Hunter Marks
    2018-12-01 00:19

    Incredible book.

  • John Beeler
    2018-12-04 04:47

    Poignant. Humanizing.

  • Eric_W
    2018-11-30 02:24

  • Sonny.hersch
    2018-12-01 00:49

    A compelling story of courage and dignity.

  • D. B. Patterson
    2018-11-20 08:42

    Necessary, VitalThe same year this book was published also gave us All the President's Men. But it was All God's Dangers that won the National Book Award. A must read, this subtle and delicate piece of storytelling seeps into you, working its magic until the end. It feels like a novel, the way it occupies your mind and heart while you read. It's a vital book.

  • Diana Eidson
    2018-11-24 02:37

    I LVOE THIS BOOK! I taught it to my students--both undergrad and grad--and they loved it, too. This is one of the best books I have ever read. Nate Shaw/Ned Cobb had an incredible intellect and memory. His story engages the reader on many levels, and we are left with admiration and wonder that this great man lived such a humble life. I wish I had read this year's before, for it gives me hope that perhaps the lives of sharecroppers and tenant farmers were not as destitute and hopeless as they often seem. I am thankful that Rosengarten was able to take down Nate's story before he passed away unremarked. He was truly a remarkable man--resilient, wise, kind, and strong. We can learn so much from voices like Nate's. Many voices of poor farmers--white and black--have been marginalized and silent for too long. This book provides an excellent example of an oral history that recovers the marginalized voice of an incredible man. Nate Shaw will not be forgotten, and his story should be widely read and shared. I highly recommend this work, and I am thankful that Dr. Cliff Kuhn of Georgia State University (God rest his soul) told us about it in a panel discussion. He changed the trajectory of my scholarship.

  • Tom
    2018-11-29 01:49

    There is a difference between an autobiography and an audio-autobiography. No doubt Nate Shaw was a unique character, a hard working, smart, honest man at a time when these characteristics could get a Black man in "a heap of trouble." The stories he recalled, the situations he described, the relationships he had were not at all unique in his day and age but the fact that he survived them and could recite the names, dates, and situations of these events that took place 50 or more years earlier is surprising and for the reader, fortunate. He had a way of coming around to the end of a story by a long and circuitous route. Hearing him tell the story in his own voice would be the preferred method of getting it. All in all however it's a book well worth the time it takes to learn of his life.

  • Rosemary
    2018-12-06 05:49

    I read All God's Dangers not long after it came out in paperback. I was a college student then, and I still can't think of a book that has impressed me more. I was completely drawn into the world of Nate Shaw, a black share cropper from Alabama, as he moves through his long life recounting his experiences and the catalog of injustices done to blacks in the South. By hard work and sheer force of will combined with intelligence and an unfailing moral compass, Nate Shaw perseveres in circumstances that few could hope to make it through. His voice and what happened in his life remain with me 40 years later.

  • Jim Martin
    2018-12-09 00:27

    I am from Alabama and have been to the part of the state where Shaw/Cobb lived (NW of Auburn). This book rings true to life, especially for the changing period of time that it covers (1900 to 1940). I can understand why some find the narration discombobulating, but in lightly editing Shaw's stories Rosengarten allows for his narrator to speak with his own voice; a voice which was rarely heard by the broader society during the time period covered in the book and which has been mostly forgotten today. Anyone who wants to understand the history of the rural lower South will profit from reading this book.

  • Nick
    2018-11-29 01:27

    This is something of an oral history. Rosengarten, doing his graduate work, stumbled on Nate Shaw (a pseudonym), one of those natural storytellers. This book is so fluid that it almost reads itself, or at least carries the reader along with the current. Along the way, Shaw illustrates the hard-scrabble life of a tenant farmer in the South under Jim Crow. Amazingly enough, Shaw's pure talent as a storyteller (no doubt ably assisted by some judicious editing) makes the book both engrossing without being depressing, a real triumph given the circumstances.

  • Joyce
    2018-12-12 01:48

    Rosengarten discovered Nate Shaw (really a pseudonym) and tapped his memories for this amazingly in-depth account of life in Alabama from the 1880s to the 1970s. It's a fascinating social history. I would have never read this but it's a fascinating performance on audio. Narrator Crisden's riveting reading highlights the storytelling qualities of Shaw's memories, rambling and full of colloquialisms. Winner of 1974 National Book Award against strong contenders: Studs Terkel, Robert Pirsig, Woodward and Bernstein, Robert Caro.

  • Dave Ritchie
    2018-12-10 08:33

    This is a very entertaining and interesting book - only the rambling style keeps it from the fifth star. As I read Nate's stories about the life of a Black sharecropper in the Jim Crow era, I kept hearing my own grandfather's stories about rural Arkansas during the same era - very similar stories, from the "other" perspective. This book is enlightening and uplifting from start to finish. Nate Shaw was a truly remarkable man.

  • Stephen
    2018-11-13 02:28

    Why this came to mind to review now I'm not sure. It just popped into my head with the memory that when I read it twenty-plus years ago I thought it was a book everyone should read. Magnificent! Thank you, Mr Rosengarten. The only reason I'm not shelving it in favorites non-fiction is that (I think ) I've read everything on that shelf twice. I should read it again! You should read it if you haven't.

  • Paul
    2018-11-12 01:36

    This autobiography of Nate Shaw, a sharecropper in Tukabahchee County Alabama, is a rich and authentic portrait of the South from 1885 to 1973 when Shaw died. It reveals much about the history of race relations and agricultural economics in this country. It is a long read at 575 pages but quite remarkable.

  • Hannah Lawrence
    2018-12-06 08:28

    As good as a narrative by an illiterate black man who lived through the struggle of life in a Jim Crow south could possibly get. Highly interesting, but I have a little trouble reading so much incorrect grammar at times. Rosengarten does a good job at organizing the narrative, but it is still difficult to understand the chronology entirely.

  • Will Corvin
    2018-11-28 05:44

    An inspirational protagonist brings life to the Jim Crow South through remembering with remarkable detail the oppressive systems he faced as a black sharecropper. Sometimes it was hard to see the bigger picture during Nate Shaw's conversational, rambling prose, but still does a fantastic job of depicting the times.

  • Frank
    2018-11-21 00:33

    A massive oral autobiography, impressive in its detail and coherence, indeed Faulknerian in milieu, perspective, and concerns—but lacking Faulkner's exquisite language and artistic shaping. That's not to say that Shaw's voice is not compelling and commanding, though. He was an amazing man, and I learned a lot from this book, the type of book you seem to experience more than read.

  • Peter Javsicas
    2018-11-21 01:38

    I read this book too long ago to give details, but I have never heard of a more courageous, intelligent and resourceful person than Nate Shaw. This fascinating account of his life inspires faith in the human potential.

  • Gina Rheault
    2018-11-24 01:47

    Nate Shaw, sharecropper, loves to talk, and tell its a treat to listen to his life as he remembers it, living a good life, through troubles and disdain, and injustice. Very cinematic, I am surprised its not a movie.