Quigley’s narrative of Terrell and her court case is especially relevant in the wake of numerous well-publicized killings of...

JUST ANOTHER SOUTHERN TOWN

MARY CHURCH TERRELL AND THE STRUGGLE FOR RACIAL JUSTICE IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL

A retelling of the events leading up to the landmark civil rights Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson Co., Inc., which invalidated segregated restaurants in the city in 1953.

The legal history of segregation in the United States is often bookended by two cases: Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the pernicious “separate but equal” precedent in 1896, and Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned Plessy and made state-sponsored segregation unconstitutional. However, as lawyer and journalist Quigley (The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, 2007) argues, the civil rights movement had other landmark cases and successes that created the momentum necessary for the Brown ruling. Among them is the case of Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954). In 1950, Terrell, an Oberlin-educated daughter of former slaves, was denied service at a popular Washington, D.C., cafeteria called Thompson’s Restaurant, only blocks away from the White House. The symbolism of the restaurant’s location was lost, however. Terrell, a lifelong activist and the first president of the National Association of Colored Women and founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, used her political clout to challenge the discriminatory practices of the restaurant. Quigley expertly analyzes the legal drama of the court case, which was not without complication or difficulty. (A judge initially dismissed charges against Thompson.) The author also smartly references the dissent and turmoil of the Supreme Court at the time, which had to deal with cases like Isserman and the trail of the Rosenbergs, to explore how the court unanimously voted in favor of Terrell, a clear signal that the age of segregation was unequivocally over.

Quigley’s narrative of Terrell and her court case is especially relevant in the wake of numerous well-publicized killings of black citizens by police officers and the latest wave of black activism.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-19-937151-8

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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