SOUTHERN JOURNEY

MY RETURN TO THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

Dent (former executive director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation) not only recounts his 1991 trip across the South, he illuminates the odyssey of the black soul across the second half of the 20th century. Focusing on smaller towns and cities, such as Orangeburg, S.C., and Albany, Ga., Dent asked residents about the civil rights movement and its local legacy. Coupled with his own observations and some historical background, the result is a series of images with real depth. The wide variation in experiences and evident splintering of the black community in the South are striking, but a common thread runs through the interviews: The high hopes pinned on voter registration and school desegregation have gone unrealized, even though both goals were largely achieved. Blacks gained access to political power and then discovered that this was not sufficient to gain economic power and improve economic conditions. Desegregation brought black children into public schools previously reserved for whites, but did not necessarily provide them with a better education. Indeed, Dent ponders the once (and possibly still) heretical notion that the old, underfunded black schools may have done a superior job of preparing their students for a white-dominated world. Dogmatic supporters of 1970s civil rights policies will not applaud this suggestion any more than those who deny the significance of race in this country will welcome the depiction of persistent economic inequality. This is not the place to look for sweeping analyses and grand conclusions, however; the strength of Dent's effort is the feeling his descriptions evoke for each locale and its residents. His work succeeds because it doesn't overreach. Moreover, one is left with the impression that the people whose lives we glimpse are disappointed but not crushed, and that while new leadership is needed, the old fervent energy has not completely dissipated. A book to savor. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen; 1 map) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-688-14099-8

Page Count: 325

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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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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