Katznelson also deepens our understanding of the modern civil rights movement, which begins in the 1930s, not the 1960s: a...



A searching study of institutional inequality, much of it wrought, then as now, by the South.

“Three-fourths of us are disenfranchised; yet no writer on democratic reform says a word about Negroes.” Thus W.E.B. DuBois, writing in 1935 at the height of the New Deal. Katznelson (Political Science/Columbia Univ.) ponders how it could be that in the declining years of Jim Crow, the disenfranchisement of African-Americans could grow rather than weaken; most people in most regions had been affected in one way or another by the Depression, but in the South, where the average per capita income was half that of the rest of the country, black male workers earned a third of what even poor whites did, $565 a year against $1,535. Every other index was weighed against blacks: their health was poorer, their rate of homeownership lower, their acreage smaller and less productive. Aid programs organized by the various alphabet agencies of the New Deal did little to change the configuration, Katznelson writes, because the former slave states of the South fielded members on Capitol Hill who saw to it that relief went to white constituents. And because the Roosevelt administration was beholden to the South for votes, it did almost nothing to advance civil rights for African-Americans: “There would be no anti-lynching law on President Roosevelt’s watch,” Katznelson writes, “nor would racial hierarchies in the armed forces or federal agencies be disturbed in any basic way.” The gap would even widen following WWII, a time when other non-black minorities, such as Jews and Catholics, enjoyed “the extension of American pluralism and tolerance.” Katznelson does good service in excavating the archaeology of institutional racism, which, he notes, was brought about bit by bit, and not as a coherent program, and was thus easy to overlook.

Katznelson also deepens our understanding of the modern civil rights movement, which begins in the 1930s, not the 1960s: a thoughtful account for readers with an interest in that history.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2005

ISBN: 0-393-05213-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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