THE REST OF THE DREAM: The Black Odyssey of Lyman Johnson by Wade Hall

THE REST OF THE DREAM: The Black Odyssey of Lyman Johnson

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The compelling reminiscences of 82-year-old black history teacher and civil-rights activist Lyman Johnson. Here, aided by Bellarmine College English prof. Hall, Johnson tells his story with an impressive mixture of rage and understanding, frustration and hope. Although all four of his grandparents were slaves, Johnson's own father was a college graduate, principal of a black high-school and a perceptive critic of the status quo. He adjured his small son, for example, never to sit in the section known as ""the crow's nest,"" the area set aside for blacks in the local movie theater. Better, he said, to forgo the entertainment than to subject yourself to such discrimination. It was a policy Johnson has largely adhered to all his life, although he is eloquent in his arguments that occasional ""compromises"" are necessary to attain equality--but only when they do not debase the compromiser's innate dignity. On this subject, he finds something to recommend in both W.E.B. Dubois' militancy and Booker T. Washington's more accommodating policies. And in discussing the contributions of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., he acknowledges the leader's greatness but cites certain unexpected but well-buttressed reservations about his methods. Throughout the book, in fact, the author sounds a pervasive note of evenhanded rationality and refreshing honesty. As an educator in a black school, Johnson faced a dilemma during the days when ""separate but equal"" was the law of the land: He realized that in wishing to make his school the best possible, he was, in a curious way, abetting segregation. This is just one of the many ironies he points out in his work; how he has been able to resolve them in his life makes for engrossing reading.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky