An overdue tribute to the organization most responsible for dismantling American apartheid.




On the NAACP’s 100th birthday, a civil-rights expert offers a celebratory history of perhaps the most successful advocacy group ever.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People set out to agitate against a segregated society that had done little since emancipation to advance the civil rights of African-Americans. Although open to all at its inception, the primarily black organization raised its early profile by chronicling patterns of racial discrimination with its magazine, The Crisis, an anti-lynching campaign and a nationwide call to protest the racist movie, The Birth of a Nation. By the 1920s, the NAACP’s 100,000 members were waging a multifront battle on behalf of racial justice. Sullivan (History/Univ. of South Carolina; Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr, Letters From the Civil Rights Years, 2003, etc.) begins with the organization’s pre–World War I founding and follows its various transformations up to the historic Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The author pinpoints the NAACP’s place in the civil-rights universe—too integrationist for the Garveyites, too timid for the communists, too radical for most everyone else. She also spotlights important cases and issues—racial terror, voting rights, criminal justice, discrimination in the military, employment, housing and education—that aroused the organization’s members, and focuses on the NAACP’s growth, achievements and synergistic composition. Locals organized in membership branches and were coordinated by field workers and attorneys, all of whom were informed by an agenda articulated at annual meetings of the national and statewide organizations. Although Sullivan touches on the group’s internecine squabbling and various rivalries—W.E.B. Du Bois had an especially tumultuous relationship with the association—Sullivan’s tone is largely uncritical This is understandable perhaps when the list of major players—including Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, Roy Wilkins, Charles Huston, William Hastie, Thurgood Marshall, Medgar Evers and Rosa Parks—reads like a civil-rights Hall of Fame.

An overdue tribute to the organization most responsible for dismantling American apartheid.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59558-446-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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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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