Books by Samuel DeWitt Proctor

Released: Jan. 9, 1996

An African-American educator, political figure, and Baptist preacher recounts his life and times eloquently but too selectively. Proctor is both a devout Christian and an old-fashioned liberal—integrationist, meliorist, and favorably disposed to federal action. Born in 1921 in Virginia, he grew up as part of a community for which the black church was the only haven from white control. Proctor followed a number of relatives in pursuing higher education and ultimately entered the ministry. He became president of several colleges, including North Carolina A&T when Jesse Jackson was its student body president, and held a succession of jobs in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, among them associate director of the Peace Corps and special assistant to Sargent Shriver in the Office of Economic Opportunity. For some years, he was simultaneously a professor of education at Rutgers and minister at the influential Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Proctor's description of the complex culture of black America in the age of Jim Crow is illuminating, and he artfully weaves the personal narrative of his childhood and youth into the greater story of black progress. But his account of the later events in his life has all the flesh and blood of a rÇsumÇ; Proctor writes only perfunctorily of how he obtained and performed one job after another. His portraits of Martin Luther King Jr. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. are so sharp that one wishes he had etched his impressions of other historic figures he has known. Nevertheless, Proctor movingly articulates a philosophy rarely expressed from left of center these days: that the great chasm dividing people is not between black and white, but between those with religious faith and those without. Interesting and sometimes inspiring, but omits too much to be the outstanding memoir it might have been. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Literary Guild featured alternate; author tour) Read full book review >