Egerton's examination of the South in the period immediately preceding the civil rights movement is less history through group biography than history through cameo appearance. Calling himself ``a middle-aged, middle-class, white Southern male with moderately liberal biases,'' Egerton (Southern Food, 1987, etc.) gracefully combines the narrative techniques of fiction with the richness of historical fact to examine the South in the period immediately preceding the civil rights movement. Covering the years from 1932 (the beginning of the New Deal) to 1954 (when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education), the story unfolds chronologically, as most good history does, so the causes and effects are clear. Chronicling the Southern Tenant Farmer's Union and other groups, Egerton reminds us that conscience and opposition to racism existed in the South before Rosa Parks took her seat on the bus. But all these considerable strengths are dissipated by the way Egerton uses the huge cast he has selected. Those—black and white, rich and poor—who set the stage for Martin Luther King Jr. appear, disappear, and reappear in dizzying fashion. Far less known than King, some of the most interesting are Will Alexander, Mary McLeod Bethune, W.J. Cash, Frank Porter Graham, James Weldon Johnson, Lucy Randolph Mason, and Ralph McGill. If Egerton had explained their lives more fully, he would leave readers more satisfied. Still, the author does ultimately wrestle successfully with his wonderment at who and what transformed the politics and culture of the South in the space of a single generation. Those devoted to the study of Southern history will read this book avidly. Newcomers will learn a great deal from the author's inspired conceptualization but will need frequent respites from the flood of humanity he presents. (48 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-40808-8

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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