THE SOUTHERN MYSTIQUE by Howard Zinn

THE SOUTHERN MYSTIQUE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Books about the Negro Revolt or Our Racial Crisis usually come off the presses opped-up and/or as capitalized as the issue itself. A particular joy then to read Howard Zinn's calm, conscientious account of his experiences as a white teacher at Spellman College in the Deep South, experiences in which the nature of prejudice is viewed with understanding, perspicacity and, mirabile dictu, a not too guarded optimism. Headlines being what they are, such optimism may be hard to swallow. However Zinn's thesis (that the Southern mystique is a man-made mystery and that the South is but a distorted mirror image of America as a whole) is buttressed with a number of everyday happenings indicative of varying social attitudes whereby the seemingly innate differences between blacks and whites turn out to be nothing but the perennial conundrum of human behavior in general. Zinn's reductionism, his nothing ut disclaimer, tends of ourse towards the simplistic. Still these are not ostrich-hiding observations, and the book's real strength lies in its many examples of cultural maladjustment toward political, economic and religious disparities. There is, for instance, a telling chapter on the much-publized jalings of King and his followers in Albany, Georgia, for which Zinn blames Washington irresolution, rather than local "evil." Zinn's temperature reading of the sick South shows up the sickness- a sleeping one, as it were- of the Republic. Thus his optimism is contingent upon our awakening to action and to health.
Pub Date: June 15th, 1964
ISBN: 0896086801
Page count: 290pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1964




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