Well-rendered popular American history that also speaks to present-day issues.



An eerily timely account of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission.

In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson hurriedly appointed the high-profile commission in response to widespread race-based unrest around the country, especially in Detroit and Newark. Like many former presidents who announced advisory groups, Johnson sought to offer the appearance of concern without having to concretely address the unrest. The president hoped the commission would delay any report until after the 1968 presidential campaign. However, pushed by commission staff lawyers as well as members John Lindsay, the mayor of New York City, and Sen. Fred Harris, a detailed, scathing report about white degradation of black urban areas quickly became reality. Gillon (History/Univ. of Oklahoma; Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation into War, 2011, etc.), a resident historian for the History Channel, describes the many internal controversies of the commission using authoritative details and lively prose. He also goes beyond the inner workings to demonstrate how the commission helped countless Americans better understand the alarming realities of nationwide racism. The public awareness of the report emerged the same week as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the convergence of those two events meant an unexpectedly intense focus on racism throughout the country. With the reality of systemic racism finally recognized among prominent white Americans, it appeared that African-Americans could feel safer about speaking truth to power without sounding like overzealous radicals. Gillon’s research about the Kerner Commission, bolstered by hours of interviews with the surviving members, is extremely well-documented and also offers the feel of being ripped from today’s headlines. “The report’s most important legacy,” writes the author, “was its willingness to acknowledge the role of white racism in creating the conditions that sparked the riots….Unfortunately, despite all the progress that has been made over the past five decades, many of those same conditions still exist.”

Well-rendered popular American history that also speaks to present-day issues.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-09608-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet