Important material out of the shadows to which so much labor history is exiled.

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THREE STRIKES

THE FIGHTING SPIRIT OF LABOR’S LAST CENTURY

Top-drawer narrative histories of two important strikes, and a more amorphous consideration of musicians’ rights to their work, from three progressive historians.

Zinn (The Future of History, 1999, etc.) tackles the Colorado coal strike of 1913–14, during which 11 children and 2 women were found burned to death under tents set ablaze by National Guardsmen in a notorious incident known as the Ludlow Massacre. Zinn is a fine storyteller, keeping the tone low but passionate as he makes plain as day the many evils of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s coal operation, a veritable fiefdom unto itself, keeping workers in its harness from cradle to grave. He also does a good job highlighting how the New York Times acted in collusion with the coal operators as part of a larger cultural air-brushing of dramatic and violent labor events into oblivion. Frank (American Studies/UC Santa Cruz; Buy American, 1999) displays a jazzier style as he recreates the Woolworth’s sit-down strike of 1937 in Detroit. (“Woolworth’s was a palace built for working-class people. The big fluted columns were made of concrete, not marble, then painted shiny bright colors.”) He too stands foursquare behind the strikers: young white women, poorly paid in dead-end jobs, caught in the revolving door of unskilled work. The radical Waiters’ and Waitresses’ Union of Detroit capitalized on the canny tactic of the sit-down strike, which kept owners from locking out workers and hiring scabs, and the women managed to subvert journalists’ preoccupation with their sex. Kelley (History/NYU; Race Rebels, 1994) tries to get a sense of musicians’ rights through the unsuccessful American Federation of Musicians strike against theater owners in 1936. The topic is unwieldy, as can be seen when looking at today’s controversies Napster and MP3, and Kelley’s broader question—voiced, not answered—is “what happens when working-class consumption of popular culture overrides the interests or concerns of popular culture workers?”

Important material out of the shadows to which so much labor history is exiled.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2001

ISBN: 0-8070-5012-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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A proficient overview, though skewed by its British orientation.

BERLIN AIRLIFT

THE SALVATION OF A CITY

Detailed, nuts-and-bolts exploration of the 1948-9 Berlin airlift, first major crisis of the new Cold War.

British military historians Sutherland and Canwell begin at the close of World War II, when the Red Army occupied the decimated, starved city. Germany was divided into four zones after its surrender in May 1945, and the Soviets jealously guarded access to Berlin, which lay within their zone but was divided among all four Allies. Food and fuel were urgently needed for the city’s nearly three million residents, but the Russians did not allow supplies to move through their zone into West Berlin. As Soviet-sponsored communist parties seized power in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia, the Truman Doctrine guaranteed U.S. support for democracies that resisted. When the Marshall Plan for the economic reconstruction of Europe was set forth in July 1947, the Iron Curtain had already fallen, and divided, vulnerable Berlin came under increasingly restrictive Soviet measures. The crisis was precipitated by the introduction on June 21, 1948, of the Deutsche Mark in Berlin’s three Western sectors. In response, the Soviets declared they would no longer supply food to the German civilian population in those sectors. The authors credit British Air Commodore Rex Waite (rather than American General Lucius D. Clay) with drafting the plan for an airlift (dubbed Operation Vittles) to sustain the population and the garrisons. Using three airfields from June 1948 to June 1949, the Western powers airlifted nearly two million tons of food and supplies, effectively undermining the Soviets and keeping West Berliners from starving. The authors make a good use of primary documents to portray the broad political machinations of the time, yet neglect to offer voices from the civilian eyewitnesses. A final chapter, “Legacy of the Airlift,” covers such subsequent events as the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and its dismantling in 1989.

A proficient overview, though skewed by its British orientation.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-58980-550-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

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An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

EMPIRE OF SHADOWS

THE EPIC STORY OF YELLOWSTONE

The story of a national park might seem a niche subject, but OnEarth magazine editor Black (Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, 2006, etc.) surrounds it with a colorful, stormy, often-distressing history of our northern mountain states.

The author begins with Lewis and Clark, whose 1804–06 expedition passed nearby but brought back only rumors of odd geological events. The northern Rockies remained a backwater for another half-century. Almost no one but fur traders took an interest for the first 30 years; wagon trains pouring west after 1840 passed well to the south. By the 1850s gold mining and ranching produced settlers, quickly followed by the Army, both anxious to eliminate the Indians. Black provides painful details of 20 years of conflict that accomplished this goal. Lacking gold or good grazing, the Yellowstone area attracted few settlers, but visitors brought back tales of wondrous geysers, boiling springs and breathtaking scenery. In 1869 the small, privately funded Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition produced such a tantalizing report that Montana residents organized a large expedition. That expedition spent a month exploring, resulting in a torrent of publicity that led to the federally funded Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. Its enthusiastic report included historical photographs by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran, and the resulting publicity persuaded Congress to create the world’s first national park in 1872. Congress did not, however, provide money, so vandalism, poaching and commercial exploitation flourished until 1886 when the Army moved in. It did not leave until the new National Park Service took over in 1918.

An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-38319-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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