THE GLORY ROAD: The Story of Josh White by Dorothy Schainman Siegel

THE GLORY ROAD: The Story of Josh White

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A sympathetic biography of the folk singer, or more accurately an outline of his career, enlivened by quoted reminiscences by White, with memories and tributes from others and some typical YA background on race records, conditions in the pre-civil-rights South, and so on. White's memories of racial bigotry and cruelty are devastating--his father was dragged off to jail, beaten in front of his children, then sent off to an asylum for life, all for removing an abusive white bill collector from the White home. His family was left in poverty, so Josh became a ""lead boy"" for blind traveling singers who sent a pittance to Mrs. White and kept the rest of the take. From accompanying one blind singer on a guitar, Josh moved, on his own, to recordings, Broadway shows, and club dates--the last in 1940s Greenwich Village, which was Bohemian enough for blacks and whites to mix but not advanced enough for blacks to do so without frequent black eyes and insults. Enthusiastically received in Europe and on friendly terms with Eleanor Roosevelt, White fell from glory when accused of Communist fellow-traveling and called up before HUAC. Subsequently he was rejected by both anti-Communists and his old friends on the left, who disapproved of his performance as a ""friendly witness."" Siegel devotes some space to this issue but doesn't specify what his ""friendly witness"" testimony involved--only that he didn't ""name names,"" as some may have charged. But she emphasizes his refusal to play Jim Crow and his insistence through his career on including his anti-racist songs for all audiences. Overall she conveys a sense of the time and the milieu, as well as of White's career. One wonders how many young readers will have heard of Josh White, but this might prompt some to seek out his records.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1982
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich