This book's audience will depend on a surpassing interest in the history of West Point, an indiscriminate concern with black...

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COURT MARTIAL: A Black Man in America

This book's audience will depend on a surpassing interest in the history of West Point, an indiscriminate concern with black American material, or a passion for 19th-century marginalia. J. Chesnut Whittaker had the luck -- and misfortune -- to become a Negro cadet in 1876, a time when the academy was under assault and racism was unbridled. After long ordeals of isolation Whittaker was found tied up and mutilated: an elaborate case was built that he had somehow done the bloody deed himself, and the author goes a bit overboard in weighing that possibility. A series of inquiries and trials involved government figures up to the level of President Hayes himself; Marszalek describes the clash of abolitionists, bureaucrats, officials, black spokesmen, and Army chiefs, building up to the anticlimactic conclusion that there was ""no conclusive proof of Whittaker's guilt"" and offering a post-history of the conservative Whittaker, who had sought not social equality but an avenue toward a respectable career. The legal dimensions of the hearings, reports, and self-defensive quest for a court martial are intriguing although this is a quite special chapter in the annals of the ""black-man-in-America.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1972

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Scribners

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1972