“Surely everyone knows, or should know, about the Cherokee Trail of Tears - an ordeal imposed upon thousands of Cherokees, who, after fighting and winning a judgment in the Supreme Court against their removal from the Eastern Seaboard, were nonetheless dispossessed of their tribal lands and marched to Indian Territory in the early 1830s. The scale of the removal was staggering. Not only the Cherokee but also the Muskogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and many of their African-American slaves were removed in one of the largest and most brutal acts of aggression ever committed by the United States. But not till now, with the coming of NPR journalist Steve Inskeep's magnificent book, focusing as it does on the two key players - President Andrew Jackson and Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross - has this episode in American history been rendered in such personal detail and human touch. . . The story of the Cherokee removal has been told many times, but never before has a single book given us such a sense of how it happened and what it meant, not only for Indians, but also for the future and soul of America.”
“Grounded in vivid primary sources, it is also a moving tale of leadership, betrayal and (violated) minority rights, culminating in the tragedies we know as Indian removal and the Trail of Tears. . . "Jacksonland" successfully transports readers to an era when travel was slow and dangerous, racial and sectional divisions growing, and America very much a work in progress . . . Inskeep writes with the urgency of a thriller, a cinematic eye and a consciousness that even history's apparent losers won occasional important battles.
“The narrative reads as if written by a watchful observer. It brings a part of history alive that is not usually discussed with this much depth.”
“Confident, lucid prose. . . . The author knows how to hold an audience. . . Well-researched, -organized, and -presented, this is a sober, balanced examination of the origins of one of the more regrettable chapters in American history. “
JON MEACHAM, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
“Steve Inskeep has found an illuminating and provocative way to talk about the American past—and, truth be told, the American present and future too. By taking us back to the epic struggle between Andrew Jackson and Chief John Ross, Inskeep tells an essential story of geography, greed, and power: and the forces he so clearly delineates are the ones that shape us still.”
CANDICE MILLARD, author of Destiny of the Republic and The River of Doubt
“Inskeep tells this, one of the most tragic and transformative stories in American history, in swift, confident, colorful strokes. So well, and so intimately, does he know his subject that the reader comes away feeling as if Jackson and Ross’s epic struggle for the future of their nations took place yesterday rather than nearly two hundred years ago.”
JAMES McPHERSON, author of Embattled Rebel and Battle Cry of Freedom
“This narrative of the forced removal of Cherokee Indians from their ancient homeland in the 1830s is framed as a contest between two determined and stubborn adversaries who had once been allies. President Andrew Jackson eventually prevailed over Cherokee chief John Ross in a conflict that culminated in the infamous Trail of Tears. Steve Inskeep skillfully captures the poignant drama of this tragic tale.”
DANIEL FELLER, director of the Papers of Andrew Jackson, University of Tennessee
“Few episodes in American history evoke greater controversy and bitterness than Indian removal and the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Steve Inskeep’s Jacksonland brilliantly illuminates this troubling story. Told with pinpoint accuracy, evenhanded sympathy, and sparkling prose, this is truly a tale for our times.”
PRINCIPAL CHIEF BILL JOHN BAKER, Cherokee Nation
“Steve Inskeep has paid incredible attention to detail and his references are impeccable and well researched. History often overlooks, or briefly mentions, that one of Andrew Jackson's major initiatives as President of the United States was the removal of Indian tribes, including the Cherokee, from their ancestral homelands. The honest and factual detailing of how Cherokee traditional lands were usurped is compelling, and I hope it gives contemporary American readers a new perspective on our collective history. Andrew Jackson and his political allies in Congress wanted what we had and they simply took it by any means necessary. Clearly, our ancestors didn’t stand a chance. Steve Inskeep tells the story fairly and pays proper due diligence to the politics of the day, especially the treatment of the Five Civilized Tribes."
H.W. BRANDS, author of The Man Who Saved the Union and Andrew Jackson
“History is complicated, and in its complications lies its appeal. Steve Inskeep understands this, and his elegantly twinned account of Andrew Jackson and John Ross shows just how complicated and appealing history can be. Each man was a bundle of contradictions; together their lives illuminate the confusing, sometimes infuriating adolescent years of the American republic.”
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, author of Presidential Courage
"With brisk, original storytelling and insight, Steve Inskeep brilliantly illuminates a crucial too-little-known chapter in American history, and show us how the confrontation between Andrew Jackson and John Ross resonates today.
So large has Andrew Jackson loomed in American history that an entire era is named for him, but NPR Morning Edition cohost Inskeep (Instant City) tames this outsized personality and brings fresh insight to the events leading to the Trail of Tears. Inskeep sets Jackson alongside the Cherokee leader John Ross in a nuanced dual biography that tells a compelling story of how democracy in the early-19th-century United States developed at the expense of Native American rights and land. The narrative alternates between the lives of Jackson and Ross, leading up to their final confrontation over Cherokee land in the state of Georgia, and Inskeep takes into consideration their “two different and mutually exclusive maps” of the territory. Ross believed he could secure a place for his people within the growing U.S. by emphasizing what Cherokees and whites had in common. But once gold was discovered in Georgia around 1829, this became a moot point, and Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act with a chilling ease. Dejected Cherokees abandoned Chief Ross, concluding that life across the Mississippi might be the best they could hope for. Inskeep provides a stark reminder of all that was lost. Illus. (May)
There is no shortage of monographs on the contentious relationship between President Andrew Jackson and Cherokee Chief John Ridge between the Creek War of 1813–14 and the removal of the Cherokee along the Trail of Tears. Historians have tended to focus on Jackson's need for border security or the desire of Southern planters to seize the rich agricultural lands held by the members of the Five Civilized Tribes. Although Inskeep (cohost of National Public Radio's Morning Edition; Instant City) explores those areas, he also sheds light on other notables who figured into the narrative, such as Henry Clay and Chief Justice John Marshall. Special attention is given to the covert activities of Catherine Beecher, who started a women's letter-writing campaign opposing Cherokee removal that eventually morphed into the abolitionist movement. As an investigative reporter, Inskeep delves into the economic records of Jackson, his family, and close associates; and brought to the fore that they were all scandalously acquiring vast tracts of valuable agricultural lands on native territory, sometimes before the removal treaties were negotiated. VERDICT This superb book is highly recommended for readers interested in Native American studies or Southern history. For more on Catherine Beecher and her movement, see Alisse Portnoy's Their Right To Speak: Women's Activism in the Indian and Slave Debates. [See Prepub Alert, 11/17/14.]—John R. Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY
NPR's Morning Edition co-host Inskeep (Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi, 2011) returns with a review of the forces and events leading to the expulsion of the Cherokees from their ancestral homelands. In this lively narrative aimed at general readers, the author carefully avoids demonizing or patronizing his main characters. He presents Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), the man who, "more than any other single person, was responsible for creating the region we call the Deep South," as ruthless and prejudiced but sincerely convinced that removal was in the Indians' best interests. His Cherokees were no backcountry innocents but rather "skilled political operators who played a bad hand long and well," directed by their principal chief John Ross, who had fought under Jackson in the Red Stick War. Pursuing neither rebellion nor submission, Ross counseled "civil obedience, following the law while highlighting the rights he believed Indians already had" in the vain hope that the white man's government would honor its legal and moral commitments, and holding out as long as possible for the best deal he could get for his people. However, the author ably shows how greed for land, sectional politics, heavy-handed action by the state of Georgia, and sincere moral concerns combined to bring about the forced mass migration that many Cherokees had found unthinkable. As Inskeep tells it, the story is a gradually cresting tragedy, helped along by an intransigent president but ultimately inevitable. The author knows how to hold an audience; his confident, lucid prose occasionally frolics with descriptions like that of Jackson's army in 1814, "as undisciplined as a bear rug with the bear still in it." His insights into the mechanics of land speculation on the frontier and on the effect of the Indian removal controversy on the nascent abolitionist movement are particularly noteworthy. Well-researched, -organized, and -presented, this is a sober, balanced examination of the origins of one of the more regrettable chapters in American history.