A social justice pioneer gets her due in this inspiring story of toil and spirit. A must-stock for libraries.



A civil rights activist from the Mississippi Delta earns a sympathetic, fully fleshed portrait.

Fannie Lou Hamer (nee Townsend, 1917-1977) was not well educated or a polished orator like many of her fellow activists, but her ability to empathize with the poorest Black men and women, long denied the ability to vote in the South, resonated profoundly throughout the region and rendered her one of the most effective speakers of all. Larson, currently a scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center, begins with a devastating portrait of her subject’s milieu. She was the daughter of an impoverished sharecropper, the last of 20 children born to her beloved mother, who, Hamer later said, “taught us to be decent and re­spect ourselves.” Forced to help support the family from childhood, she quit school to work in the fields. Larson amply shows Hamer’s indomitable work ethic and strong sense of the injustices Blacks were forced to endure. Married to Perry “Pap” Hamer, a mechanic, and living on a plantation, she underwent a hysterectomy in 1961, without her consent, and could never have children of her own. As the NAACP began organizing the civil rights movement and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee opened offices to generate grassroots voting efforts, Hamer responded enthusiastically, finally able to channel her outrage and anger. Robert Parrish Moses, the local SNCC field representative, recognized Hamer’s leadership potential and tapped her to galvanize voter registration, against violent White intimidation. Hamer’s big moment came as she told her life story on national TV as part of the effort to challenge Mississippi’s all-White delegation to participate in the Democratic National Convention in 1964. The group won the right to seat Black delegates at the 1968 convention, and Hamer even ran for office herself. With diligent research featuring new sources, Larson brings her subject into a well-deserved spotlight.

A social justice pioneer gets her due in this inspiring story of toil and spirit. A must-stock for libraries.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-009684-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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