STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM: The History of Black Americans by Daniel S. Davis

STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM: The History of Black Americans

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By now the broad outlines of the history of black Americans are so familiar that this consolidating essay has little new to offer; however, its superiority to juvenile titles of a few years back is revealed in subtle shifts of emphasis. Postwar efforts to rid the army of Jim Crow practices are included, and the Supreme Court's 1954 decision on segregation is no longer regarded as a thunderbolt which signaled the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. Marcus Garvey and A. Philip Randolph (subjects of previous biographies by Davis) receive their just share of attention; however, Davis' emphasis on broad social trends (he sees a cyclical pattern of racism and reconciliation at work) often leaves room for little more than a roll call of black notables. The chapters on slavery parallel much of the material presented in Meltzer's Slavery II (p. 681, J-235), though in more condensed form (Meltzer, for example, acknowledges the controversy surrounding the Vesey revolt while Davis accepts the consensus view). The sketchy and unaccountably selective treatment of the events of recent years is undoubtedly a serious weakness; the Black Panther Party is mentioned only once in passing as is Eldridge Cleaver (as the author of Soul On Ice) while the Urban League's ""New Thrust"" policy receives a whole paragraph. Though the early '70's are characterized as a period marked by the ""withdrawal of blacks and whites from common efforts to create an open society,"" Davis' narrative ends for all practical purposes with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Thus while this volume offers always acceptable, and sometimes superior, restatements of material already well covered in most collections, it fails to bring the record up to date.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1972
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich