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. 20, 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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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