AMERICA 1941: A Nation at the Crossroads by Ross Gregory

AMERICA 1941: A Nation at the Crossroads

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A lively portrait of a nation poised between the tribulations of the Depression and the horrors of WW II that focuses on the changes being wrought in the lives of average citizens--city- and country-dwellers, blacks, churchgoers, Army inductees, etc. Gregory (History/Western Michigan Univ.) develops his themes with assurance and insight, leavening with intriguing anecdotes what could have been merely a scholarly sociological study. The author is especially adept at tracing the electorate's varying reactions to the policies of FDR, then in his third term as President. Accused by some of dictatorial aspirations, defended by others as the farsighted champion of democracy in the Western world, Roosevelt was a divisive element in US society. Equally suspect in some quarters was American Catholicism; many Protestant Fundamentalists were convinced of a Papal plan for the takeover of the world. Jews were also eyed with suspicion, and the spurious Protocols of the Elders of Zion was taken seriously by anti-Semites across the nation--despite the increasingly hard-to-ignore reports of Nazi atrocities. Gregory ventures into less controversial areas as well. He describes, for example, the radio shows of the period--from ""Our Gal Sunday,"" weepy soap opera, to ""Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy,"" which kept kids glued to the family Philco five evenings a week. There are also effective depictions of such sports giants as Joe Louis and Joe DiMaggio; demagogues such as Gerald L.K. Smith and Fr. Coughlin; and entertainment figures like Ethel Merman and Abbott and Costello. For older readers, this is a worthwhile nostalgia trip recalling both the pleasant and the perturbing; for younger, it proves a concise overview of a crucial period in not-so-distant American history.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 1988
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan