RACE REBELS

CULTURE, POLITICS, AND THE BLACK WORKING CLASS

A leftist history of unconventional resistance by 20th-century African-Americans to racial, class, and sexual oppression. Kelley (History, Afro-American, and African Studies/Univ. of Michigan; Hammer and Hoe, not reviewed) is a historian with an ax to grind, and he wields it with a will. The perspective here is that of radical historians such as W.E.B. DuBois, E.P. Thompson, and C.L.R. James: the so-called ``history from below'' that interprets events in the prism of class struggle. To his vast credit, in seeking to memorialize history's marginalized, Kelley has brought to the surface events and issues that need to be addressed. For instance, his discussions of blacks' early unorganized, unsuccessful fight for space on buses, of Birmingham's displaced industrial poor, and of tensions between working-poor and middle-class blacks add much to our understanding of the civil rights movement. His narrative of black volunteers in the Spanish Civil War adds a small but moving chapter to that conflict. The problem is that Kelley's leftist orthodoxy clutters his prose and numbs his perspective. ClichÇs like ``empowerment,'' ``refusing to privilege race, class, or gender,'' and ``discursive strategies'' drift like academic deadwood through these pages. The term ``race rebels'' is too elastic, ranging from workers hovering above or below the poverty line to those unmoored by lack of employment or stable families into youthful nihilism (such as Malcolm X in his ``zoot suit'' hustler days and ``gangsta'' rappers, a group to which the author ascribes inordinate importance). Kelley breezily dismisses as bourgeois such analysts of the ``underclass'' as William Julius Wilson. And some of his observations can be jejune, as when he sees the celebration of the pimp in the ``Black Power'' era as at least partly due to ``the image of black female dominance created by the Moynihan report.'' Even Kelley's obvious compassion and excellent research skills are not enough when his analysis of race and class is so clouded by ideology.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-02-916706-X

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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