THE LYNCHING OF CLEO WRIGHT

A pat, scholarly reconstruction and analysis of the 1942 incident that occasioned the first federal investigation of lynching. Just weeks after America entered WWII, a black oil-mill worker named Cleo Wright assaulted a white woman and a white police officer in Sikeston, Mo., severely injuring both. Wright was seized by an angry mob, dragged across town behind a car, doused with gasoline, and burned alive. Such brazen savagery—at a time when unity against a supposedly barbaric totalitarian enemy was considered a matter of national survival—ignited public censure nationwide (though not, significantly, in Sikeston). It also, Capeci (History/Southwest Missouri State Univ.) notes, raised pressing questions —about personal responsibility and civic duty in a democratic society founded upon law and order.— While Capeci delves into the sociological and psychological roots of Wright’s violent crime and the violent reaction it instigated, he relies too much on the jargon of those disciplines and too little on original interpretation. His most provocative assertion (that the Wright case marked the beginning of a long federal activism that ultimately culminated with the prosecution of the murderers of civil rights workers Schwerner, Cheney, and Goodman in the 1960s) is undercut by a chapter detailing the way in which Wright’s lynching was both demographically divergent from and similar to other Missouri lynchings. That chapter highlights the book’s awkward straddle between a micro-view (which analyzes the lynching as just one of 85 in Missouri between 1889 and 1942) and the macro-view (which posits it as a benchmark of Progressive-era federal activism). Capeci does a service in shining the light of history on the little-known incident that “signaled the beginning of the end of one kind of racial oppression,” but it raises more questions than it answers about the pivotal, lasting impact of Wright’s lynching. (7 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8131-2048-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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