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. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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