RED SUMMER

THE SUMMER OF 1919 AND THE AWAKENING OF BLACK AMERICA

Masterly examination of the widespread outbreak of racially motivated mob violence in the summer of 1919.

In his debut, Wall Street Journal staff reporter McWhirter describes in gripping detail a wave of incidents of mob violence that erupted across America in the summer following the end of World War I. Chicago, Washington and Knoxville became battlegrounds, and in Omaha the mob sacked the county courthouse and nearly hanged the mayor. The Tuskegee Institute recorded 83 lynchings during the year, a record that still stands. The federal government did nothing; the Justice Department, led by the red-baiting Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer, attributed the violence to radical agitators among black workers. As McWhirter skillfully demonstrates, the true causes of the violence were complex, arising in part from social dislocations resulting from the “Great Migration” of Southern blacks to northern cities in search of industrial jobs, a trend that exacerbated racial animosities in volatile societies that were often already ethnically fragmented. Lynchings and race riots had occurred throughout American history, but in 1919 white thugs encountered something new—the nation’s black communities now included soldiers returned from France who were determined to resist mob violence by force of arms. Their efforts were supported by black civic leaders like James Weldon Johnson, Walter White and W.E.B. Du Bois of the NAACP, who pressed for justice for the rioters’ victims in the press, the courts and Congress, and thereby established their burgeoning organization as the preeminent group advocating for black rights. In this new spirit of resistance, McWhirter sees “the start of a process—a great dismantling of institutional prejudice and inequity that marred American society.” Throughout the book, the author writes with professional detachment, permitting his subjects’ words and deeds to speak eloquently for themselves, amplified by liberal quotation from the vibrant black press of the period. An unsettling reminder of the cruelty and hatred that can lie beneath the surface of a nation formally committed to equal justice for all, but also a monument to the suffering and perseverance of a people at last determined to demand rights promised but too long denied.

 

Pub Date: July 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8906-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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