Saturday, June 26, 2021

Robert G. Parkinson's "Thirteen Clocks"

Robert G. Parkinson is associate professor of history at Binghamton University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Thirteen Clocks: How Race United the Colonies and Made the Declaration of Independence, and reported the following:
It would be tough to do better than page 99 to get a sense of what Thirteen Clocks is all about. Occurring just past the halfway point of the book, it begins a recap of the previous two chapters and sets the agenda for the final two. “By the end of that unprecedented summer” of 1775, it says, “colonists were reading about unrest and potential unrest all over America.” The previous two chapters outlined how enslaved and Native peoples “greeted the news of civil war with Britain in various ways.” Those chapters documented how British officials had considered the idea of encouraging enslaved African Americans and Native peoples to assist them in putting down the burgeoning Revolutionary War. As page 99 says, “In so doing, Britain found means to accomplish what seemed impossible just a few years earlier: unite the American colonists.” The 86 pages that follow cover what will happen over the next nine months, as these stories – managed and manipulated by patriot leaders like John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson and featured in colonial newspapers – coalesced in the reasons why the Americans decided they needed to declare their independence from the British empire. Thirteen Clocks explores how stories about race overcame colonial jealousies and brought them all together as one. Those stories also featured in and influenced the Declaration of Independence. Page 99 puts you right in the middle of the story, as tales about enslaved and Native peoples acting with the British began to swirl in the summer of 1775, and how those stories made America independent and united the states the following July 4, 1776.
Learn more about Thirteen Clocks at The University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue