A pertinent, well-fashioned American success saga.




This chronicle of the influential black Chicago newspaper simultaneously tracks the important issues pertaining to African-American history from the turn of the 19th century.

A copy editor and investigative reporter at the Defender from 1991 to 1996, journalist Michaeli tackles an enormous swath of American history in his thorough, painstaking account of the newspaper’s rise to prominence. The story begins with the Georgia-born Robert Abbott, who had been so impressed by the accomplishments of the black professionals he met while visiting Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 with his singing group, the Hampton Quartet, that he stayed in the city to attend law school. He was resolved that the city needed an African-American newspaper that would “ ‘wake them up,’ expose the atrocities of the southern system, and make demands for justice.” With scant resources, depending on subscriptions from the South Side black community, and using his landlady’s dining room as a newsroom, Abbott launched his first issue of the “defender of his race” in May 1905, with a print run of 300. Subsequently, Abbott led the newspaper to prominence over four decades, becoming the mouthpiece for the seminal race issues of the day: exposing the spate of lynchings in the South; advocating for the integration of sports teams; covering race riots; agitating for the huge migration of blacks to find industrial jobs in the North, known as the Great Northern Drive; and supporting the troops in a “Jim Crow army” while carefully avoiding undermining the war effort. As the Defender’s mantle of leadership was assumed by Abbott’s nephew John Sengstacke in 1940, the paper took on the role of galvanizing the black electorate, which would become key in the presidential elections of Harry Truman (1948) and John F. Kennedy (1960), the Chicago mayoral upset by Harold Washington in 1983, and Barack Obama’s astonishing homegrown surge in 2003. Michaeli has obviously put a considerable amount of care into the research and crafting of this important history.

A pertinent, well-fashioned American success saga.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-547-56069-4

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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


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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