BREAKING BARRIERS by Carl T. Rowan
Kirkus Star

BREAKING BARRIERS

A Memoir
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

As a truly distinguished journalist, commentator, and sometime public official, Rowan (Just Between Us Blacks, 1974) realizes (more in anger than in sorrow) that a lifetime of accomplishment as a boat-rocking, barrier-breaking black man has to an unfortunate degree been overshadowed by the fact that he was tried (but not convicted) in 1988 for wounding a hopped-up white youth (who had invaded his Washington, D.C., property during the wee small hours of a June morning) with an exempt-from-registration handgun. Small wonder, then, that the author brackets this absorbing account of an odyssey that took him from abject poverty in rural Tennessee to a position of influence and power in the nation's capital with his version of a regrettable, if arguably minor, incident. Educational opportunity in the form of the V-12 program (which made him one of the US Navy's first black officers during WW II) allowed Rowan to escape his roots. Having earned degrees from Oberlin and the Univ. of Minnesota after the war, he won a job as a reporter at the Minneapolis Tribune. The author's bylined coverage of the Third World's early postcolonial years as well as the civil-rights movement gained him an international reputation. Tapped for a State Department post by JFK's talent scouts, he subsequently became ambassador to Finland and head of the USIA. Greatly distressed by Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam policies, Rowan bowed out gracefully in mid-1965 to become a syndicated columnist and broadcast personality. While he volunteers precious little information here on his obviously happy family life, the author offers acute anecdotal observations on many public figures, including Marion Barry, Jesse Jackson, LBJ, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Dean Rusk, and Whitney Young. Drawing on the experiences and achievements of his own career, Rowan also delivers scathing critiques of the FBI, neoconservative theoreticians, ethnic politics, blacker-than-thou separatists, closet racists, and other individuals, institutions, or ideologies that offend his genuinely liberal sensibilities. A rousingly opinionated memoir by a man who, at no small cost, made his way into--and mark on--a wealth of new worlds.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 1990
ISBN: 316-73977-3
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:




MORE BY CARL T. ROWAN