AMERICAN POPULISM

A SOCIAL HISTORY 1877-1898

A brief, crisp account of ``the Pentecost of Politics'' that energized farmers in America's heartland in the last third of the 19th century. Historians have generally regard this agrarian movement from three vantage points: as a forerunner of Progressive reforms (John Hicks); as a failed attempt to create a more humane economic order (C. Vann Woodward and Lawrence Goodwyn); or as a dark expression of latent anti-intellectual and intolerant impulses in the American character (Richard Hofstadter). McMath (History/Georgia Institute of Technology) has created a reasonable argument that incorporates some elements of all of these views. Although finding that many Populists shared the prevailing prejudices of the time against blacks and women, he argues that this political upsurge ``fashioned a space within which Americans could begin to imagine alternative futures shaped in the promise of equal rights.'' Recent research at the state and local levels not only enables the author to critique previous historians of Populism but also to demonstrate the bewildering variety of regional differences in the South, Midwest, and West that complicated Populism's organizing efforts. McMath is especially helpful in analyzing the economic pressures, the community activities, and the ``cultures of protest'' from which sprang the Farmers' Alliance and its later, more famous offshoot, the People's Party. True, his treatment of the free silver issue that William Jennings Bryan rode to fame seems offhand, and he doesn't weigh adequately the Populists' role in passing reform legislation. But he does show how the movement tried—though ultimately failed—to make common cause with other reform groups such as labor, suffragettes, prohibitionists, and, most tragically, southern blacks, who were as victimized as poor whites by the sharecropping system. A rewarding examination of how a protest movement was fanned into being, only to flame out.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-8090-7796-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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