Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday Book Roundup

This week, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington brought with it several book reviews on race in America.

NPR has put together a list of "books that bring the civil rights movement to life" here, including two of my favorites - Anne Moody's Coming of Age in Mississippi (Random House, 1992) and the edited volume of personal accounts, Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (University of Illinois Press, 2012).

The Washington Post's Jonathan Yardley reviews William P. Jones's The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights (Norton). Yardley writes,
"This is the central theme of “The March on Washington”: The powerful economic impulses of the march have been lost to view as historians emphasize the eloquence of King’s speech and its effect on the political climate as the country moved to address the questions of basic civil rights and opportunities that he articulated. Initially the march’s organizers demanded “federal jobs creation, raising the minimum wage, a Fair Employment Practice law, and support for [President John F.] Kennedy’s civil rights bill,” demands that “expanded as new groups joined.”"

This week there are also several reviews of For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (Pantheon) by Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy, including a lengthy L.A. Times review, a Washington Post review, and a Wall Street Journal review for subscribers.

H-Net has a review of Emily West's Family or Freedom: People of Color in the Antebellum South (University Press of Kentucky), which makes use of enslavement petitions to examine antebellum race and status relationships in the South.

Lewie Reece has tackled two books in a H-Net review titled, "The Lincoln Theme in the Twenty-First Century." The reviewed books are Michael Burlingame's Lincoln and the Civil War (Southern Illinois University Press) and Mark E. Neely's Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation: Constitutional Conflict in the American Civil War (University of North Carolina Press).  Reece writes:

These two books serve as a reminder that the Lincoln theme, far from being exhausted, continues to be explored in new ways by historians. Pure biography remains a subject of lively interest, but so do efforts to connect Lincoln to issues related to antislavery and the Civil War. Additionally, several works are but marginally connected to history, and instead examine the ongoing impact Lincoln had, and continues to have, on American culture. Moreover, as these two volumes suggest, academic historians continue to widen the parameters of our understanding of Lincoln. 
Mark Neely and Michael Burlingame have written widely not only about Lincoln, but Civil War America as well. Their approach in these volumes is different, yet similar. Neely presents a constitutional and legal history of the Civil War which, despite the title, is only partly about Lincoln. Burlingame has written a compressed history of Lincoln’s presidency and its influence on the Civil War. Both works reveal these historians’ impressive scholarship and wide reading in manuscript sources; both provide insight into the subject. It takes courage to try and do something different and provocative, and both men are to be commended for seeking new approaches.
 n+1 reviews Walter Johnson's River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Harvard University Press).

Other reviews of interest include Washington Post's review of Higher Education in America (Princeton University Press) by Derek Bok.

HistoryToday asks "How could the first nation to cleave church from state remain so pious?"as it reviews The Creation of the American Soul: Roger Williams, Church and State, and the Birth of Liberty (Duckworth) by John Barry.

The New York Times reviews A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America (Norton) by Evan J. Mandery. (Previously mentioned in the Aug. 18 Book Roundup.)

And Salon has published an excerpt from Estelle B. Freedman's Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation (Harvard University Press).