As a collection of apercus this bulky essay has some interest, although it is diagnostically and prescriptively weak....

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AMERICAN SOCIETY AND BLACK REVOLUTION

As a collection of apercus this bulky essay has some interest, although it is diagnostically and prescriptively weak. Hercules' historical survey deals first with both ""objective"" and ""subjective"" matters from the black African slave traders to Lincoln's pragmatism; the postbellum decades, however, are treated chiefly with reference to black leaders, abstracted from the specifics of, and changes in, the black American condition. The treatment of Frederick Douglass' later years (""a narcosis from the heights"") and the Booker T. Washington-DuBois arguments (Washington made the greater contribution to black ""survival,"" Hercules thinks) compares favorably with the superficial comments on subsequent leaders. Garvey is praised qua ""orator,"" Adam Clayton Powell as ""a visceral leader,"" Malcolm X represented as a Black Muslim tout court; George Jackson and Eldridge Cleaver are scolded for their alleged anarchism but acclaimed as ""freedom fighters."" In his ecumenical moods Hercules terms every conceivable black activist a ""revolutionary,"" including Whitney Young and Washington (except for Martin Luther King, whose cheek-turning he loathes). But in his polemical moods, Hercules rejects ""revolution,"" which he tends to equate with raze war. He advocates an unconvincing hodgepodge of remedies: white relinquishment of ""white racism,"" using professional jurors sanitized of prejudice, and renunciation of Christianity. Hercules, a Trinidad-born lecturer, novelist and teacher, offers a lively, if pompous erudition and a certain fruitful distance from American history, but, for all its stress on leadership, the book's concern for black people does not extend to a stringent appraisal of possible political and economic strategies.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1972