Patterson guides us with consummate skill through a hall of social heroes populated by courageous parents and students,...

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BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION

A CIVIL RIGHTS MILESTONE AND ITS TROUBLED LEGACY

A prize-winning historian (Grand Expectations, not reviewed) revisits the 1954 school-desegregation decision and traces its effects on American social history.

Patterson (History/Brown Univ.) argues convincingly that race remains at the center of many of America’s social problems and that “[t]he complicated issues that Brown tried to resolve in 1954 still torment Americans half a century later.” Patterson begins with a sad snapshot of American life before Brown, when the nation maintained a dual system of education for whites and blacks that kept the races separate and unequal(especially in the South. In the early 1950s, the NAACP and its principal attorney, Thurgood Marshall, decided to attack school segregation. Patterson humanizes Marshall, showing his playfulness, his doggedness, his patience, and—toward the end—his bitterness at the glacial progress of social justice. The author reminds readers that Brown was a constellation of cases, not a single one: the Supreme Court first heard arguments in 1952 but delayed ruling and ordered a rehearing in 1953. By then, Earl Warren was on the court, and Patterson shows how he worked skillfully behind the scenes to gain a consensus on the decision, which he delivered on May 17, 1954. Southern whites employed three principal strategies to deal with the decision (and with the 1955 order containing the now-classic phrase “with all deliberate speed”): violence, delay, and deception. Patterson argues that it was the civil-rights movement rather than Brown, however, that prompted the most spectacular advances (viz., the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act). Patterson then chronicles the continuing efforts to achieve equality in education—with discussions of court-ordered busing, magnet schools, affirmative action, school finance, and the slow turn to the right taken by the Rehnquist court.

Patterson guides us with consummate skill through a hall of social heroes populated by courageous parents and students, tireless attorneys, and resolute judges. (39 b&w photos; 1 map, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-19-512716-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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