by Matthew F. Delmont ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 18, 2022
A vital story well rendered, recounting a legacy that should be recognized, remembered, and applauded.
Black Americans played crucial roles in nearly every theater of World War II, but they have been largely ignored in historical accounts. Delmont sets the record straight.
Delmont, a professor of history at Dartmouth who has written numerous books on civil rights and Black history, notes that he was surprised when his initial research revealed the number of Black men and women who served during the war: more than 1 million. Due to prejudice among White military leaders, most Black soldiers were assigned roles in construction, transport, supply, and maintenance. Even under appalling conditions, they served courageously, and the final victories in Europe and the Pacific would not have been possible without them. Once they were allowed to serve on the battlefield, they were indispensable. “The trailblazing Tuskegee Airmen, 92nd Infantry Division, Montford Point Marines, and the 761st ‘Black Panther’ Tank Battalion served bravely in combat,” writes Delmont, “and Black troops shed blood in the iconic battles at Normandy and Iwo Jima, and the Battle of the Bulge.” As the author shows in this illuminating history, military training camps were brutally segregated, and civilian Black Americans faced obstacles when applying for jobs in war factories. One reason was the belief that military service would help fight discrimination within the U.S., a concept encapsulated in the “Double V” campaign promoted by Black leaders: victory over fascism abroad and victory over racism at home. Even after the war, little changed for the Black community. Black veterans often found themselves ineligible for the benefits available to their White counterparts, and even Black men in uniform faced harassment. Delmont suggests that the wartime contributions of Black Americans planted the seeds for later progress, although it would be a long, difficult path—and one not yet finished. The narrative is disturbing and painful, but it provides important pages that have been missing from American history.A vital story well rendered, recounting a legacy that should be recognized, remembered, and applauded.
Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022
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by Ernie Pyle ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 26, 2001
The Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist (1900–45) collected his work from WWII in two bestselling volumes, this second published in 1944, a year before Pyle was killed by a sniper’s bullet on Okinawa. In his fine introduction to this new edition, G. Kurt Piehler (History/Univ. of Tennessee at Knoxville) celebrates Pyle’s “dense, descriptive style” and his unusual feel for the quotidian GI experience—a personal and human side to war left out of reporting on generals and their strategies. Though Piehler’s reminder about wartime censorship seems beside the point, his biographical context—Pyle was escaping a troubled marriage—is valuable. Kirkus, at the time, noted the hoopla over Pyle (Pulitzer, hugely popular syndicated column, BOMC hype) and decided it was all worth it: “the book doesn’t let the reader down.” Pyle, of course, captures “the human qualities” of men in combat, but he also provides “an extraordinary sense of the scope of the European war fronts, the variety of services involved, the men and their officers.” Despite Piehler’s current argument that Pyle ignored much of the war (particularly the seamier stuff), Kirkus in 1944 marveled at how much he was able to cover. Back then, we thought, “here’s a book that needs no selling.” Nowadays, a firm push might be needed to renew interest in this classic of modern journalism.
Pub Date: April 26, 2001
Page Count: 513
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001
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A welcome new version of a publication that is no less important now than it was in 1967.
A timely distilled version of the powerful report on racism in the U.S.
Created by Lyndon Johnson’s executive order in 1967, the Kerner Commission was convened in response to inner-city riots in cities like Newark and Detroit, and its findings have renewed relevance in the wake of the George Floyd verdict and other recent police brutality cases. The report, named for Otto Kerner, the chairman of the commission and then governor of Illinois, explored the systemic reasons why an “apocalyptic fury” broke out that summer even in the wake of the passage of significant civil rights and voting acts—a response with striking echoes in recent events across the country. In this edited and contextualized version, New Yorker staff writer Cobb, with the assistance of Guariglia, capably demonstrates the continued relevance and prescience of the commission’s findings on institutionalized discriminatory policies in housing, education, employment, and the media. The commission was not the first to address racial violence in the century, and it would not be the last, but the bipartisan group of 11 members—including two Blacks and one woman—was impressively thorough in its investigation of the complex overarching social and economic issues at play. “The members were not seeking to understand a singular incident of disorder,” writes Cobb, “but the phenomenon of rioting itself.” Johnson wanted to know what happened, why it happened, and what could be done so it doesn’t happen “again and again.” Of course, it has happened again and again, and many of the report’s recommendations remain unimplemented. This version of the landmark report features a superb introduction by Cobb and a closing section of frequently asked questions—e.g., “How come nothing has been done about these problems?” The book contains plenty of fodder for crucial national conversations and many excellent ideas for much-needed reforms that could be put into place now.A welcome new version of a publication that is no less important now than it was in 1967.
Pub Date: July 27, 2021
Page Count: 224
Review Posted Online: May 18, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021
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