An illuminating look at racial strife and TV history.



Memoir, history, and biography meld in this account of the creation of a famed civil rights documentary.

Producer and cinematographer Else (Journalism/Univ. of California Graduate School of Journalism), a MacArthur Fellow whose honors include several Peabody awards and four Emmys, offers a revealing chronicle of the making of the 1987 PBS series Eyes on the Prize. The author became involved in the civil rights movement in 1963 when he was a 19-year-old college student and took up political activist Allard Lowenstein’s challenge to “draw fire and publicity in Mississippi” by registering black voters. John Kennedy and Medgar Evers had just been shot, and Else was filled with “missionary zeal.” In 1964, he left school to work in Mississippi full time, courting danger in an area where the Ku Klux Klan flourished. Twenty years later, responding to an article in a Corporation for Public Broadcasting newsletter, he “cold-called” Henry Hampton, involved in a project to produce a TV series about the civil rights struggle. Else characterizes Hampton, who had joined the NAACP as an undergraduate at Washington University and who stood with Martin Luther King Jr. on the Pettus bridge in Selma, as nothing less than a genius, a “visionary leader” who “insisted on a bold multicultural, multiethnic, collaborative production process” that involved men and women, blacks and whites: “For him, diversity in teams trumped the powerful statement that an all-black production would have made.” Hampton also privileged the voices of ordinary men and women who participated in the movement rather than focus on people and images that had, by 1985, become iconic. Hampton viewed the civil rights movement “as a patriotic story of America’s realization of its ideals” and wanted white Americans to react positively to it. In detailing the financial struggle involved and the arduous process of finding interviewees and eliciting their stories, Else reveals the complexities of any such production.

An illuminating look at racial strife and TV history.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-98093-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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