A thoroughly researched history of important black activists.




A history of how Franklin Roosevelt’s policies were decisively influenced by a group of African American advisers.

Drawing on government documents, newspapers, and an extensive number of archives, historian Watts vividly recounts an important chapter in black American history: the place of black advisers in Roosevelt’s administration. Among the many ambitious, well-educated men and women who took up government roles during the New Deal were Robert Clifton Weaver, a Harvard-educated economist; William H. Hastie, the first African American to hold a federal judgeship; Alfred Edgar Smith, the leader of the Works Progress Administration; Eugene Kinckle Jones, who had a position at the Department of Commerce; newspaper publisher Robert Vann; and, prominent among them, the outspoken, tireless mover and shaker Mary McLeod Bethune, celebrated by African Americans as the “First Lady of Our Negro Nation.” The Black Cabinet—never officially acknowledged as such by Roosevelt—came to be knowns as “her boys.” Roosevelt could be ambivalent about advancing the cause of African Americans, fearing to alienate Southern voters, and his administration, Watts reveals, “was often explicitly hostile.” Eleanor Roosevelt, however, “awakened to the brutalities of American racism” through her close friendship with Bethune, became a stalwart supporter of equality and justice for blacks. The Democratic Party saw the advantage of courting black voters once it seemed likely that they would defect from Republicans, which looked to many blacks less like the party of Lincoln than heirs of the old Confederacy. Watts chronicles rivalries, frustrations, and disillusionments among the Black Cabinet but also considerable achievements: a growing voice within the federal government; better New Deal relief for many African Americans; nondiscrimination clauses in Interior Department contracts; and documentation of the impact of racism on the black community. As much as possible, they raised Roosevelt’s awareness of the reality of life for blacks in 1930s and ’40s America. After Roosevelt’s death, his group of black advisers “came to be celebrated as yet another one of FDR’s accomplishments.”

A thoroughly researched history of important black activists.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2910-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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