It’s clear the editors made dozens of nips and tucks to maximize their stated goal of “clear and engaging reading” while...

FREE ALL ALONG

THE ROBERT PENN WARREN CIVIL RIGHTS INTERVIEWS

An anthology reinvigorates Robert Penn Warren’s long-overlooked collection of civil rights interviews.

Published in 1965, Warren’s oral history Who Speaks for the Negro? received mostly lukewarm reviews and little fanfare. Among critics, the 450-page volume of interviews was billed as everything from “the very best inside report” on the civil rights movement to “boring.” The interviewees include Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael, and the volume brims with Warren’s own reflections, revealing as much about the author as it did the movement (critics claimed it had nothing new to say). After decades of fading from memory, Yale University Press reprinted Who Speaks? in 2014. Here, Smith and Ellis (co-editors: Say It Loud: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African American Identity, 2010, etc.) present a modified, highly relevant version of Warren’s enormous undertaking. “In this edited anthology,” they write, “the focus is on the interviews themselves.” Not all of the interviews are retained—but two are added: Septima T. Clark and Andrew Young—and Smith and Ellis stripped away the poet’s personal observations and digressions, returning to the raw transcripts and allowing the stand-alone interviews to drive home their own measures of insight. One example is the opening interview with the Rev. Joe Carter, the first African-American to register to vote in Louisiana’s West Feliciana Parish. What is now published as pure monologue describes in powerful detail Carter’s 1963 experience of harassment and arrest by a mob of whites as he defiantly attempted to register. Among other changes, the editors shed Warren’s interview titles, replacing them with the subject, date, and location followed by a page of “biographical and historical context.”

It’s clear the editors made dozens of nips and tucks to maximize their stated goal of “clear and engaging reading” while remaining “faithful to the spirit and substance of the conversations.” The result is an anthology that arguably holds more contemporary importance as a historical document than the original release.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59558-818-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more