A piquant reminder that great social progress occurs when the powerful collaborate rather than joust. (8 pp. b&w photos)

JUDGMENT DAYS

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., AND THE LAWS THAT CHANGED AMERICA

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Kotz charts the fragile relationship between unlikely allies that produced the most significant civil rights legislation in American history, then fractured over the killing fields of Vietnam.

The author begins his tracing of the tortuous, occasionally widely divergent routes taken through history’s wilderness by Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. with the gunfire in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Johnson became president, and King, who had delivered his “I Have a Dream” only months earlier, was not sanguine about this Texan with a spotty racial record. But LBJ, Kotz shows, had already urged JFK to couch civil rights issues in moral rather than purely political terms and was about to undergo a transformation that surprised social progressives even as it enraged the intransigent South. He decided he would push through Congress the most ambitious social agenda since the New Deal. Before he left office in 1969, Johnson—buttressed by King’s brilliant work in the streets, churches, jailhouses and, eventually, the consciences of America—had directed the passage of several civil rights acts, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, open housing legislation, and education and health care initiatives that gave hope to millions. Kotz (Wild Blue Yonder: Money, Politics, and the B-1 Bomber, 1988, etc.) does a brilliant job telling the stories of these two very different, very charismatic characters and analyzing the forces that drew them together, then drove them apart. Among the latter: the vile and illegal efforts of J. Edgar Hoover (whom the author compares with Iago) to subvert the movement, which Hoover was convinced was communist-inspired. The FBI bugged King’s telephones and hotel rooms and attempted to use his private words and actions to discredit him. Too soon, the roads of King and LBJ diverged in the red wood of war.

A piquant reminder that great social progress occurs when the powerful collaborate rather than joust. (8 pp. b&w photos)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-08825-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2004

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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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