They may have been invisible men to their patrons, but Tye makes the case for the porters as revolutionary elements within...



A reasoned assessment of the Pullman porters’ role in black America.

The Pullman porter’s life, reporter/biographer Tye (Home Lands, 2001, etc.) suggests, was “a capsule of space and time where all the rules of racial engagement came into succinct and, at times, painful focus.” He goes on to document the nearly limitless humiliation porters underwent every day—so much so, he writes, that they learned to don a mask at work that could be removed when their shift was done, to maintain their dignity by assuming a countenance that was not their own. Exposed to virulent racism in “one of the most thoroughly segregated workplaces in America,” they became critical sparks in the civil-rights movement. On the other hand, porters led a more cosmopolitan and (relatively) privileged life than most African-Americans, especially during the early years of the Pullman coach. They drew salaries and they traveled, garnering news and ideas from the four corners of the country, serving as agents of change within their communities as they brought home everything from jazz to seditious ideas. Their union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was a unique and powerful institution. On the complex issue of identity, the author lets the porters speak for themselves about the contrast between their status within their neighborhoods as worldly, respected men and their subordinate position at work: “It was degrading to have to ingratiate themselves to win tips, they say, and more degrading not to get any . . . the line between selling oneself and maximizing tips—that is, between slavery and economic freedom—was very thin.”

They may have been invisible men to their patrons, but Tye makes the case for the porters as revolutionary elements within black society. (40 b&w halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: July 6, 2004

ISBN: 0-8050-7075-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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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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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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