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

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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