A stirring book that explores numerous aspects of racism in Alabama and the nation as a whole.

HE CALLS ME BY LIGHTNING

THE LIFE OF CALIPH WASHINGTON AND THE FORGOTTEN SAGA OF JIM CROW, SOUTHERN JUSTICE, AND THE DEATH PENALTY

An examination of an infamous 1957 conviction of a young, black Army veteran for the murder of a white police officer that more broadly delineates the struggle for civil rights.

In addition to digging up significant details on this important but little-known case, Bass (History/Samford Univ.; Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the "Letter from Birmingham Jail", 2001) seamlessly weaves in a larger history of civil rights. On July 12, 1957, when James “Cowboy” Clark stopped black motorist Caliph Washington in the excessively corrupt city of Bessemer, Alabama, a struggle ensued. Clark ended up dead, and Washington fled, soon to be captured in Mississippi. Did Washington intentionally shoot longtime officer Clark during a struggle over Clark’s gun, or could the struggle be considered self-defense due to Washington’s fear that Clark intended to murder him out of racial hatred? Since the Alabama court system wanted to display at least the veneer of justice to the outside world, Washington went to trial. However, he received second-rate lawyering and faced an all-white jury. While on death row, Washington won a new trial due to courtroom irregularities. A second jury convicted Washington, who returned to death row. Under normal circumstances in Alabama, Washington would have been executed quickly at that juncture. However, the newly elected governor, George Wallace, despite his renown as a segregationist, felt uncomfortable with the death penalty, so he granted Washington reprieve after reprieve, which led to a second overturning of the guilty verdict. A third jury, no longer all-white, also convicted Washington. Appellate maneuvering continued for years until, finally, a judge ordered Washington’s release in 1971. The state refused to drop the case, but a fourth trial never occurred, and Washington lived an exemplary life of faith and family until his death in 2001. Throughout a skilled recounting of Washington’s travails, Bass offers extended riveting passages about the broader battle for civil rights in Alabama.

A stirring book that explores numerous aspects of racism in Alabama and the nation as a whole.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63149-237-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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