A historian who taught for 12 years in Mississippi presents a thorough and sensitive study of the struggle for civil rights in what was at the time the nation's most racially repressive state. Dittmer (History/DePauw Univ.; Black Georgia in the Progressive Era, 1900-1920, not reviewed) moves chronologically from WW II to 1968, mining a rich variety of sources to describe the numerous incremental battles in towns around the state. White Mississippi in the 1950s bolstered its ``siege mentality'' with harsh new laws blocking racial reform; while many in the black middle class were afraid to rock the boat, activists like the NAACP's Medgar Evers galvanized young people to wage sit-ins. Civil rights groups like CORE and SNCC joined in; organizers like SNCC's legendary Robert Parris Moses learned the importance of working closely with local communities. In 1962, the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) formed a united front of protest groups; its dual goals—quiet local grass-roots organizing and national publicity to gain federal protection—were, the author notes, contradictory. With the Kennedy administration sluggish on civil rights, COFO organized ``Freedom Summer,'' the 1964 education and voter registration project involving many white volunteers; Dittmer ably describes the project's successes and tensions. He also covers the historic efforts of the insurgent Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic presidential convention and the effects of the mechanization of cotton farming and the abortive War on Poverty. Dittmer concludes that the Mississippi movement, like other major American social movements, hit a cycle of compromise in which much political change was accomplished while fundamental economic change was deferred. Though some black activists attribute the movement's decline to the white influx during ``Freedom Summer,'' Dittmer suggests that rapid social changes nationally also weakened the movement's cohesion. More such analysis of larger issues would have been welcome, but the book's strength is in the details.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-252-02102-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Univ. of Illinois

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers...


A massive biography of the Civil War general and president, who “was the single most important figure behind Reconstruction.”

Most Americans know the traditional story of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885): a modest but brutal general who pummeled Robert E. Lee into submission and then became a bad president. Historians changed their minds a generation ago, and acclaimed historian Chernow (Washington: A Life, 2010, etc.), winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, goes along in this doorstop of a biography, which is admiring, intensely detailed, and rarely dull. A middling West Point graduate, Grant performed well during the Mexican War but resigned his commission, enduring seven years of failure before getting lucky. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was the only West Point graduate in the area, so local leaders gave him a command. Unlike other Union commanders, he was aggressive and unfazed by setbacks. His brilliant campaign at Vicksburg made him a national hero. Taking command of the Army of the Potomac, he forced Lee’s surrender, although it took a year. Easily elected in 1868, he was the only president who truly wanted Reconstruction to work. Despite achievements such as suppressing the Ku Klux Klan, he was fighting a losing battle. Historian Richard N. Current wrote, “by backing Radical Reconstruction as best he could, he made a greater effort to secure the constitutional rights of blacks than did any other President between Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.” Recounting the dreary scandals that soiled his administration, Chernow emphasizes that Grant was disastrously lacking in cynicism. Loyal to friends and susceptible to shady characters, he was an easy mark, and he was fleeced regularly throughout his life. In this sympathetic biography, the author continues the revival of Grant’s reputation.

At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers will regret the experience. For those seeking a shorter treatment, turn to Josiah Bunting’s Ulysses S. Grant (2004).

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59420-487-6

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet