David Hamilton Golland, Ph.D.
Publications
and Work in Progress




Books and Major Projects


Editor, The Arthur Fletcher Papers
Forthcoming with Mabee Library, Washburn University, Topeka, Kan.

I am editing the papers of civil rights leader and presidential advisor Arthur A. Fletcher (1924-2005), the subject of my 2019 book. The collection consists of some 250,000 digitized pages, including personal, organizational, corporate, and government documents. We will be publishing the collection online, to be accompanied by an interactive website and teaching tool.

The collection appears throughout the endnotes of A Terrible Thing to Waste, first cited (p. 291c1n1) as "Arthur Fletcher personal papers, digitized by and in possession of the author," and subsequently cited as "G Street."

Article:
  • Golland, "Digitizing the Fletcher Papers: A Unique Historical Experience," Perspectives on History, April 2015

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    February 7, 2020:
    Featured at Harvard Bookstore
     
    A Terrible Thing to Waste: Arthur Fletcher and the Conundrum of the Black Republican
    (University Press of Kansas, 2019)
    Buy it now at Amazon.Com (hardcover $39.95; Kindle $28.79)
    Buy it now at Univ. Press of Kansas (hardback $39.95; paperback $24.95)

    This title is the 2020-21 Washburn University iRead book.

    Arthur Fletcher (1924-2005) was the most important civil rights leader you've (probably) never heard of. The first Black player for the Baltimore Colts, the father of affirmative action and adviser to four presidents, he coined the United Negro College Fund's motto: "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste." Modern readers might be surprised to learn that Fletcher was also a Republican. Fletcher's story, told in full for the first time in this book, embodies the conundrum of the post-World War II Black Republican—the civil rights leader who remained loyal to the party even as it abandoned the principles he espoused.
         The upward arc of Fletcher's political narrative begins with his first youthful protest—a boycott of his high school yearbook—and culminates with his appointment as Assistant Secretary of Labor under Richard Nixon. The Republican Party he embraced after returning from the war was "the Party of Lincoln"—a big tent, truly welcoming African-Americans. A Terrible Thing to Waste shows us those heady days, from Brown v. The Board of Education to Fletcher's implementing of the "Philadelphia Plan," the first major national affirmative action initiative. Though successes and accomplishments followed through successive Republican administrations—as chair of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights under George H. W. Bush, e.g.—Fletcher's ability to promote civil rights policy eroded along with the GOP's engagement, as New Movement Conservatism and Nixon's Southern Strategy steadily alienated Black voters. The book follows Fletcher to the bitter end, his ideals and party in direct conflict and his signature achievement under threat.
         In telling Fletcher's story, A Terrible Thing to Waste brings to light a little known chapter in the history of the civil rights movement—and with it, insights especially timely for a nation so dramatically divided over issues of race and party.

    Advance Praise for A Terrible Thing to Waste:
    "Arthur Fletcher lived an extraordinary life. David Hamilton Golland skillfully shows how Fletcher differed from other postwar civil rights leaders and struggled to advance racial equality as a government official and an African American Republican. Golland also poignantly chronicles the numerous personal tragedies that Fletcher confronted."
    --Timothy N. Thurber, author of Republicans and Race: The GOP's Frayed Relationship with African Americans, 1945-1974

    "In this definitive biography, Golland explores the roots and impact of Fletcher's approach to civil rights, which blended mainstream integrationist ideals with self-help, capitalism, and, most importantly, government-sponsred affirmative action."
    --Joshua D. Farrington, author of Black Republicans and the Transformation of the GOP

    Reviews of A Terrible Thing to Waste:
    "David Hamilton Golland’s biography of Arthur Allen Fletcher (1924–2005), the influential black Republican who was the architect of the Revised Philadelphia Plan and the 'father of affirmative action enforcement,' reads like an American political tragedy. ... While the history of conservative ascendancy is by now well-trod territory, with a number of excellent studies on what that transformation meant for African Americans, Golland adds to the literature by bringing that narrative well into the 1980s and 1990s. ... Other scholars have mined this fraught history, particularly from the 1930s to the 1970s, but A Terrible Thing to Waste makes the party’s betrayal of its commitment to racial egalitarianism deeply personal and surprisingly vivid. This is the power of biography."
    --Angela D. Dillard, Journal of Southern History 86:2. Dr. Dillard is author of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Now?: Multicultural Conservatism in America and Faith in the City: Preaching Radical Social Change in Detroit

    "A fresh and valuable perspective on the dismal fortunes of African Americans within a fairly recent version of the party whose members once place Abraham Lincoln in the White House and cheered when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation."
    --Keith Miller, Journal of American History

    "An original and thoroughly researched contribution to the crowded field of American civil rights retrospectives. Students of history will find A Terrible Thing to Waste a helpful reference to heterodoxy in both the Republican Party and the civil rights movement of the twentieth century."
    --Kenneth Pike, H-Net Reviews

    "Gollard [sic], who previously authored a book on affirmative action, has produced an important, well-written, and researched study. Summing Up: Recommended."
    --J. Borchert, Choice 57:2

    Resources for A Terrible Thing to Waste:
  • Excerpts from A Conversation with Art Fletcher
  • Topeka History Guy: Remembering Art Fletcher, the "father of affirmative action"

    Buy A Terrible Thing to Waste at Amazon.Com (hardcover $39.95; Kindle $28.79)
    Buy A Terrible Thing to Waste at Univ. Press of Kansas (hardback $39.95; paperback $24.95)

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    Constructing Affirmative Action: The Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity
    Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011)

    "David Golland's Constructing Affirmative Action: The Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity is a wonderful work that examines the impact of local civil rights movements on national leadership and public policy. The book explores how local groups pushed for affirmative action forcing national leaders to react. But this interaction was not always to the benefit of local leaders or the people whom they represented. Golland provides elaborate details of the politics of the Philadelphia Plan and the impact this affirmative action had on the nation."
    --Clarence Taylor, author of Reds at the Blackboard: Communism, Civil Rights, and the New York City Teachers Union.

    "This book should be required reading for anyone seeking to form an opinion on affirmative action."
    --Jennifer Delton, author of Racial Integration in Corporate America, 1940-1990

    "This is both a good scholarly and general read, not to mention teaching tool."
    --Philip F. Rubio, author of A History of Affirmative Action, 1619-2000 and There's Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice, and Equality

    "Will become the standard book on the struggle for equal employment opportunity in the construction trades."
    --Terry Anderson, author of The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action

    Reviews:
  • American Historical Review 117:2, by Philip Rubio
  • Journal of American History 98:4, by Terry Anderson
  • Labor History 53:2, by Jennifer Delton
  • Enterpise and Society 16:2, by James C. Foster
  • Southeastern Librarian 60:1, by Peter Dean
  • Choice 49:3, by A.A. Sisneros

  • This book was the subject of a panel discussion at the 40th Annual National Association for Ethnic Studies Conference, April 6, 2012, New Orleans, Louisiana. Participants included David Colman, Catherine Clinton, Anthony Pratcher, and David Aliano.

    Buy Constructing Affirmative Action at Amazon.Com (hardcover $50.00; Kindle $47.50)

     




    Essays, Articles, and Book Chapters


     
    "The Presidential Archive and African American History"
    L’Heureux and Silva, Eds., Imagining Presidential Legacies: Critical Perspectives on American Presidential Libraries and Museums
    Under contract with the University Press of Kansas

    Archival and oral sources have historically been at odds in the study of African American history, owing largely to the dearth of documentary sources, the skewing of perspective in favor of those who authored and curated documents, and the discounting of oral history by traditional academic historians for much of the twentieth century. My work on the history of affirmative action stands at the confluence of this tension. Affirmative action originated in the civil rights policies of the administrations of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon, but the official government sources tell an incomplete (and self-serving) story, even by the most committed policymakers (like the heroic mid-level bureaucrats of the Johnson administration). I delved further into this tension while researching my biography of Arthur Fletcher (1924-2005), the “father of affirmative action enforcement” and advisor to five American presidents. In researching Fletcher’s remarkable life, I visited (or re-visited) five presidential Libraries; conducted and analyzed more than a dozen interviews; and organized and annotated the Fletcher Papers, some 250,000 pages of personal, governmental, and corporate documents. Importantly, the Fletcher Papers (soon to be online with Washburn University’s Mabee Library in Topeka) was collected by Fletcher himself and stands somewhat as a counterpoint to the “official” records of the origins of affirmative action in the presidential libraries. This chapter will examine the role of presidential archives in these projects and their interplay with oral and other sources. Its conclusions will explore the place of the presidential archive in the modern African American history and biography.

     


     
    "Digitizing the Fletcher Papers: A Unique Historical Experience"
    Perspectives on History (April, 2015)

    In July 2014, I traveled to Hollywood, Florida, to do research in a private, unprocessed collection of personal papers from the estate of Arthur Fletcher. Frankly, I did not know what to expect. Fletcher’s son, Paul, had moved the papers from a flooded basement in Washington, DC, after his father’s death. He told me they were safely located in a storage space that he visited every day. He was hoping to film a documentary about his dad with the assistance of faculty from one of the local colleges. With Paul’s permission to digitize the collection and a small grant from my university to cover travel and lodging, I hit the road for.... Read more.

     


     
    "Poverty in a Sea of Wealth: Arthur Fletcher in California, 1959-1965"
    California History Vol. 91, No. 2 (Summer 2014), pp. 58-73

    Previous versions of this article (under the title “Go West, Brother Man: Arthur Fletcher in California, 1959-1965”) presented at:
  • Mount Sinai School of Medicine Psychotherapy Conference, 2012 (plenary)
  • American Historical Association Pacific Coast Branch Conference, 2011
  • Historians of the Twentieth Century United States Conference, 2011
  • National Association for Ethnic Studies Conference, 2011

    In 1959, Arthur Fletcher—a former professional football player and Kansas state official—relocated to California. He was down on his luck, having lost a lucrative used-car dealership and talent-booking agency after his political patron was driven from office, and things soon went from bad to worse.1 Racist neighbors forced him to move three times in his adopted Sacramento, each move worsening an already difficult commute and further straining his family. After moving a fourth time, to Berkeley, his wife committed suicide. Despite his college education and statewide political experience, Fletcher now found himself an unemployed single parent.2 But it was in the depths of that personal and professional despair that he had an awakening. “I was in a position to understand the...struggling that a single head-of-household was experiencing as he or she tried to raise kids by themselves.”3 Working in the nearby ghetto, Fletcher discovered his life’s calling. He would rise up out of that horrible situation and use his political skills for the benefit of African Americans, going on to advise four United States presidents and implement the Revised Philadelphia Plan, earning.... Read more.

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    "From Black Kiss to Black Captain: Race, Gender, and A Half Century of Star Trek"
    Critical Issues in Justice and Politics Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring 2014), pp. 69-94

  • A previous version of this article was presented at the National Association for Ethnic Studies Conference, 2014.

  • “He [Martin Luther King] said to me, ‘Think for a moment why Uhura was chosen to go on this mission where no man or woman has gone before – because she was the most qualified and was chosen on that basis alone.’ And he said ‘I am very proud of the dignity with which...you have created your character. Youmust stay.’ And so I had to stay.” – Nichelle Nichols1

    “Today or a hundred years from now don't make a bit of difference – as far as they’re concerned, we’ll always be niggers.” – Cirroc Lofton as Jimmy/Jake Sisko2

    In 1966 America witnessed an unusual milestone in civil rights history: a "negro" woman as a recurring cast member on a mainstream television program. Lieutenant Uhura was a smart, talented member of the crew of the USS Enterprise – and during the next three seasons she gave the first televised interracial kiss and demonstrated professional competence, again and again. Yet in 1993, when the Star Trek producers developed a series with an African-American commanding officer, the decision was greeted with a collective shrug. Three decades in, white America had become accustomed to the notion of talented African-Americans and black women operating on an equal basis with whites. Along the way, the franchise produced some of the most integrated mainstream television shows, continuing to cast African-American actors in non-stereotypical roles, from Levar Burton as chief engineer to Tim Russ as a Vulcan security chief, and topping it off with the casting of a woman captain – who was neither a stereotypical “boss bitch” nor sexpot ingénue. Nichols had helped pave the way for a new understanding of race and gender – at least in the public medium of broadcast.... Read more.

     


     
    "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Arthur Fletcher, Religion, and the American Underclass"
    Claremont Journal of Religion Vol. 1, No. 1 (January, 2012), pp. 86-107

  • A previous version of this article was presented at the Social Science Research Council Conference, 2011.

    Arthur Fletcher was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1924. The son of a Buffalo Soldier, his mother cleaned other peoples’ homes despite her training as a schoolteacher and a nurse, proving an early lesson for young Arthur in American racial culture. After moving around the Southwest for much of Art’s childhood, the family eventually settled in Junction City, Kansas, where Fletcher became the first black all-state football player and graduated from the integrated local high school after organizing a protest against segregated yearbook sections. The year was 1943; he wed his high school sweetheart Mary, a daughter of black high society, and joined the army. Wounded in Europe as a Military Policeman on the “Red Ball Express” supply line under General George Patton, Fletcher returned to Kansas and attended Washburn University in Topeka on the G.I. Bill, where he became involved in early strategy sessions for the Brown vs. Board of Ed. school segregation case. A college football career resulted in his becoming the first black player for the Baltimore Colts, but his old war injury, while hardly critical, forced his early retirement from.... Read more.

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    "Recent Works on the Mexican Revolution" (review essay)
    Estudios Interdisciplinarios de America Latina y el Caribe Vol. 16, No. 1 (January-June, 2005)

    JEFFREY L. BORTZ AND STEPHEN HABER (eds.): The Mexican Economy, 1870-1930: Essays on the Economic History of Institutions, Revolution, and Growth. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

    PAUL GARNER: Porfirio Díaz: Profiles in Power. New York: Longman, 2001.

    MICHAEL J. GONZALES: The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002.

    PETER V. N. HENDERSON: In the Absence of Don Porfirio: Francisco León de la Barra and the Mexican Revolution. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2000.

    FRIEDRICH KATZ: The Life and Times of Pancho Villa. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.

    NOEL MAURER: The Power and the Money: The Mexican Financial System, 1876-1932. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

    FRANK MCLYNN: Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2001.

    There have been two important trends in the 20th century historiography of Latin America that have been applied to the Mexican Revolution. The first, dealing with cultural and social history, is subaltern studies. This trend has revolutionized the field of Latin American history by using the new social history first popularized during the 1960s as a method of telling history from the bottom up. In particular, subaltern studies looks at the power arrangements and relationships on both a macro and micro level, the relationship between peones and cacique, for instance, or between the urban elite and rural hacendados. The trend has also generated a new methodology for viewing the relationship between Latin American countries and the western juggernauts, as Mexico can be viewed as having subaltern status to the hegemonic United States or.... Read more.

     




    Book Reviews


     
    Earl Warren: A Life of Truth and Justice
    D.J. Herda
    Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 2019. 336 pp.
    This review was originally contracted for publication in the Journal of American History, but after I finished it, the reviews editor and I agreed that the book did not merit a review by a top academic journal.

    D.J. Herda's biography of Chief Justice Earl Warren reads well and includes a decent recounting of the Miranda case. Other than that, it has little to offer scholars of the court or civil rights, or even scholarly biographers. It is formulaic to a fault, including an extensive section on Warren's Norwegian and midwestern heritage, but without any connections to his later decisions. Anachronisms abound: Warren returned from the First World War to marry Nina Palmquist Meyers, described by the author as "exquisitely sculpted" (p. 51). Indeed, the role of women in this story is fully marginalized, such that I had to keep returning to the copyright page to confirm that it was written in 2019, rather than 1949. Herda even describes liberal Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, who ran against Richard Nixon for the Senate in 1950, as "comely" and "married for life" (p. 121). Warren's early sympathies for labor organizing and populism gave way when he became a State Attorney General who cited Elizabethan poor laws to argue against unemployment benefits (p.78), a contradiction which merits nary a comment from the author. Riddled with lengthy block quotes, mostly from Warren's Memoirs, the book draws no historical conclusions and cites precious few primary sources. The secondary sources are nearly as limited, including Ed Cray's 1997 biography, as well as one from 1948 by Irving Stone.

    Repeatedly, the author makes undocumented claims regarding what Warren and others were thinking. The most egregious example is found on pp. 22-23, where "Warren's most liberal colleagues on the Supreme Court expressed surprise [but when] they finally realized that Warren's concerns stemmed back to his childhood memories, they began to understand." Herda does not cite any sources for those other justices' "understandings," and the next footnote, four paragraphs later, directs us to pages in Warren's Memoirs which do not claim at all to speak for the "understandings" of Justices Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, et al.

    Warren's jurisprudence remains important and relevant, and scholars should be reassessing his life from the perspective of the 21st century. But that's not what this is. While the depiction of the path to the Brown decision makes for a good story, for instance, readers would be better off looking at Jeffrey D. Hockett's 2013 A Storm Over this Court (which, in full disclosure, I reviewed for H-Net). Those looking for a decent popular biography need only read Cray's volume, or better yet the Memoirs.

    Serious scholars of Warren's life and work will no doubt read this book, as serious scholars try to read everything on their subject. They should not expect Herda to return the favor. Ultimately this book, like movies "inspired by a true story," is entertainment, not scholarship.

    David Hamilton Golland
    Governors State University

     


     
    The United States and the Nazi Holocaust
    Barry Trachtenberg
    London: Bloomsbury, 2018. xii + 244 pp
    Journal of American History 106, No. 1 (June, 2019), pp. 235-236

    In The United States and the Nazi Holocaust, Barry Trachtenberg combines a synthesis of diplomatic scholarship with a sociocultural history of American understanding of the Holocaust, with occasional references to whiteness studies and civil rights history. This page-turner makes two main arguments: that scholars should avoid viewing the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration's response to the Holocaust through a Manichean lens; and that American understanding of the world's worst genocide has tracked the increasing political and social clout of American Jews. He makes a strong case for both.

    After World War I, American isolationism, anti-Semitism, and racism resulted in strict immigration quotas. As the crisis of European Jews deepened in the 1930s, depression-era Americans remained largely unwilling to take them in, and American Jews lacked the political power to reverse this. Roosevelt did more than he is given credit for, notwithstanding the 1939 MsSt. Louis incident (in which the United States refused entry to over nine hundred Jewish refugees fleeing Germany), but he would not spend the necessary political capital to mitigate the suffering.

    As the genocide worsened, the desperation to migrate increased, along with official American knowledge of what was happening. But after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States was more concerned with preventing espionage than effecting rescue. Holocaust refugees, like Japanese Americans, were kept behind barbed wire.

    Following victory, the United States briefly relaxed quotas for refugees, now called "displaced persons," and eventually known as "survivors." But even sympathetic agencies focused on rapid assimilation and financial independence over psychological and cultural understanding. Fearing a resurgence of anti-Semitism and eager to smooth their transition into the white middle class, American-born Jews focused on demonstrating survivors' Americanness.

    In the two decades after liberation, popular knowledge of the Holocaust grew thanks to films, television programs, coverage of the Nuremberg and Adolf Eichmann trials, and the work of survivor-scholars Raul Hilberg and Hannah Arendt. Initially, owing to continued anti-Semitism, media downplayed the centrality of the Holocaust's attack on Jewry, but by the end of this period the Holocaust was depicted as a primarily Jewish event.

    Since the 1970s, the increasing confidence and economic and political clout of American Jews has ingrained the Holocaust firmly in the American cultural zeitgeist, as demonstrated by coverage of Ronald Reagan's 1985 visit to a Bitburg cemetery where Waffen Ss soldiers had been buried and of the John Demjanjuk affair in which a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Ohio was extradited and tried in Israel and Germany as a suspected extermination camp guard; films such as Sophie's Choice (1982) and Schindler's List (1993); and the building of memorial museums and development of education programs.

    The book is riddled with sloppy editing, with an error on nearly every page (e.g. "refuges" [p. 44], "concentrations camps" [p. 94], "Ben Kingsly" [p. 175]). Most are innocuous, but overall they tend to distract from an interesting read. Historians should be particularly careful with dates, as when Trachtenberg states that "Demjanjuk's citizenship was restored in 1988," when in fact it happened in 1998 (p. 170); and with the names of fellow historians, e.g. Oregon State University's "Christopher McKnight Nicholas" (p. 17 and bibliography; his name is actually Nichols).

    David Hamilton Golland
    Governors State University

     


     
    Bureaucracy in America: The Administrative State’s Challenge to Constitutional Government
    Joseph Postell
    Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2017. Pp. xii + 403
    Journal of Southern History 84, No. 3 (August, 2018), pp. 712-713

    Joseph Postell’s provocatively titled Bureaucracy in America: The Administrative State’s Challenge to Constitutional Government (a conscious play on the work of Alexis de Tocqueville) considers the American regulatory state from the colonial period to the present. It makes one constitutional argument and one historical argument. First, Postell posits that the modern regulatory state is unconstitutional because federal agencies combine the three powers the framers carefully separated as a guard against tyranny. "American bureaucracy," he argues, "poses a serious challenge to core principles of our constitutional order" (p. 317). Second, Postell demonstrates that the origins of the modern regulatory state date not from the 1880s with civil service reforms but from Progressive-era reforms codified during the New Deal era. The historical argument is more compelling than the constitutional argument.

    Reasonable scholars will disagree about the Constitution, and readers will find much here to disagree with. Postell claims that regulators haved developed a legislative "process that takes place entirely within the confines of an unelected administrative agency," usurping congressional authority (p. 49). In fact, regulations are not laws; they are methods of enforcing laws and are subject to congressional oversight. Postell sees courts deferring to regulatory agencies on "findings of fact," rather than submitting them to de novo review, as an arrogation of judicial authority (p. 8). But, as the author himself points out, the courts determine their own degree of deference to administrative findings. Importantly, in calling the agencies independent because they are staffed by unelected civil servants hired through competitive examination, Postell believes the civil servants have usurped executive authority because they cannot be fired at will. But reasonable job security does not protect civil servants from termination for incompetence or insubordination. These are employees of the executive branch, not an unelected "'fourth branch'" (p. 3).

    Postell makes an adequate case that the civil service exam, instituted in the 1880s, is a product of the less regulatory nineteenth century, while the Progressive era represented a significant break with the past. The book's problems are sloppy methodology and lack of context. It relies on straw man arguments and fails to adequately document the historiography it challenges. While Postell notes that "[m]any histories of the administrative state mark the 1880s as the decade when the administrative state was born," the footnote references only one such history (p. 127). He points to the opinions of Chief Justice Roger B.Taney, which strengthened the regulatory state during the nineteenth century, as an aberration. As the author of one of the most vilified decisions in Supreme Court history, Taney is an easy target, but as an almost three-decade chief justice, he is hardly an aberration from the era’s jurisprudence. Meanwhile, Postell lauds James Madison’s opposition to bureaucracy and promotion of Congress as the branch most connected to the American people, but he ignores the fact that Madison, like Taney, had a very different definition of the people than did regulators of the twentieth century.

    The context of the Progressive era is likewise minimized, even as its timing is the crux of the argument. In arguing that the "principles of republicanism, separation of powers, and the rule of law through an independent judiciary, were replaced with a new understanding of the relationship between administration and constitutionalism," Postell describes a second American revolution (p. 169). But the reasons for this revolution, as numerous as those for that of 1776, are not listed; and there is not any sufficient explanation as to why it is less legitimate. Readers are left to infer that Postell subscribes to the doctrine of original intent when he refers to the Constitution in the past tense.

    These arguments aside, this book is a page-turner. The arguments are developed and thoughtful, and scholars of public policy and Constitutional law will find much to debate.

    David Hamilton Golland
    Governors State University

     


     
    Racing for Innocence: Whiteness, Gender, and the Backlash of Affirmative Action
    Jennifer L. Pierce
    Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012
    Journal of American Ethnic History 33, No. 3 (March, 2014)

    Affirmative action, a policy designed to combat racial and gender discrimination in employment and education, came under fierce attack during the late 1980s and early 1990s, leading to California’s Proposition 209. Heretofore it has been assumed that antipathy to the policy generated largely from working class white men, facing competition from members of minority groups and white women for jobs which became more scarce thanks to the deindustrialization of the 1970s. The popular imagination held that college educated white male elites were color-blind and generally in favor of the policy. Not so, points out Jennifer Pierce in this provocative, insightful, well-researched, and timely book. White male elites harbored intense resentment against the women and minority job applicants whom they viewed as undeserving of “special treatment.”

    White male elites used the news media to gin up anti-affirmative action sentiment by focusing on the stories of those who felt (usually without evidence) that they had been wronged by the policy—that a less-qualified black or woman applicant had “stolen” their job or spot in an elite college or graduate program. Again and again, journalists would allow full explications of the positions of those who opposed the policy without challenging their basic assumptions; at the same time, those who favored the policy barely rated a mention. Also During this era, Hollywood produced numerous race films in the vein of “To Kill a Mockingbird”—films based on the trope of the white elite hero (a lawyer like Matthew McConaughey’s Jake Brigance in A Time to Kill) saving the helpless black victim from working-class white racism, thus reinforcing the notion that so-called “colorblind” post-civil rights white elites were innocent of racism, and implying that it was counterproductive to the cause of racial progress to “harm” these elite whites with affirmative action.

    Pierce backs up her argument with solid original research at one California law firm, where she conducted interviews in 1989 and again in 1999, speaking with white male lawyers, black lawyers, and woman lawyers on their work histories and their feelings about affirmative action. The firm had been the subject of an anti-discrimination lawsuit in the early 1970s and subsequent affirmative action court order. Her results clearly demonstrate a continuing history of institutional racism, the result largely of white male lawyers who consider themselves color-blind while for the most part harboring deep-seated race and gender prejudices. As a result, token women and minority hires at the firm are given inappropriate assignments and not allowed to develop intra-office support like their white male colleagues, resulting in disparate treatment. All had left the firm in the decade between the two interviews.

    Senior attorneys resent the restrictions on their ability to hire the best-qualified lawyers, which Pierce labels the neo-liberal argument against affirmative action, while lamenting that they can no-longer tell sexist or racist jokes (which I presume is what Pierce means by the neo-conservative argument against affirmative action, although the definition for this is somewhat unclear in the book). Pierce correctly categorizes these feelings as the myth of “white male innocence and injury.” This myth posits that in the post-civil rights era, elite white males are innocent of racism because they personally oppose overt discrimination. They are then injured by affirmative action, which they see as denying white males appropriate job opportunities to make up for racist acts that either occurred in the past or lies, as they see it, in the province of the racist non-elites. Ultimately because they cannot consider themselves racist as individuals, and because our society (especially in legal circles) predicates blame on individual responsibility, they cannot see how they contribute to institutional racism.

    The book is formatted logically. The first chapter analyzes affirmative action reportage in print media, and the second Hollywood race films. The third and fourth cover the interviews at the law firm (where for some reason the interviewees are all identified by name while the firm is rendered anonymous with initials): Chapter Three covers race while Chapter Four covers gender.

    In a striking (and welcome) departure from the strictly analytical, Pierce includes in Chapter Five a short story, “Small Talk,” where she presents her findings through a fictional encounter between a black woman applicant for a job at a law firm and two white interlocutors, one a well-heeled Ivy League graduate, the other a white ethnic son of the working class. While the white ethnic seemingly keeps bringing the topic of conversation back to the issue of race, overcompensating in a desire to prove that he is not a racist and a sexist (asking the protagonist her opinions about Michael Jordan and Ward Connerly, for instance, and calling her, behind her back, “a real ball-breaker”), it is the more polite Ivy League graduate who harbors the deeper prejudices, despite his greater ability to behave “appropriately.” He is the managing director, and it is he who desperately wants to hire her to meet a quota but will, consciously or not, place numerous unnecessary obstacles in her path to partner. I expect other reviewers may take issue with the inclusion of the short story in a scholarly book, but I would disagree. After all, what is a conclusion if not a summation of what the author has learned from the research? The short story, in this case, simply uses a fictional situation to accomplish the same goal. Pierce never pretends that the story is in any sense a recount of actual events; it is, therefore, merely the presentation of scholarly results in another medium.

    In sum, Racing for Innocence is an important addition to the literature on race, gender, and equal opportunity and expands our knowledge as we contemplate the roots of the backlash against affirmative action.

    David Hamilton Golland
    Governors State University

     


     
    A Storm over This Court: Law, Politics, and Supreme Court Decision Making in Brown v. Board of Education
    Jeffrey D. Hockett
    Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013. x + 267 pp.
    Reviewed by David Hamilton Golland (Governors State University)
    Published on H-Law (December, 2013)
    Commissioned by Christopher R. Waldrep (San Francisco State University)

    Why, after six decades of established precedent, did the Supreme Court in 1954 overturn the doctrine of “separate but equal,”--and unanimously at that? It is to this question that Jeffrey D. Hockett turns in A Storm over This Court, his second book and a natural progression from his earlier study of New Deal jurisprudence. The answer: it’s complicated. Whereas prior book-length studies tended to focus on single factors influencing the justices’ decisions, and particularly those of the newest member of the court--and sole Republican appointee--Chief Justice Earl Warren, Hockett primarily draws his ideas from the articles of Rogers M. Smith in American Political Science Review (1988) and Polity (1995) to take a comprehensive look at all the known and theorized possibilities.1

    Most prior studies fall into one of two major categories: “instrumental decision making--the self-interested pursuit of a favored policy preference” (p. 6), and noninstrumental factors, such as concern for the prestige and honor of the Court, a desire to horse trade with other justices so as to get favorable results in future cases, and the attempt to rule based on a disinterested interpretation of the Constitution, either from a constructionist viewpoint or the doctrine of the “living Constitution.” Hockett does not fall into either of these camps, but proceeds from what should have been an obvious thesis: not only did each of the nine justices who decided the Brown case have his own motivations for the decision, but each of these justices had multiple motivations. The overall decision-making process is therefore the result of multiple instrumental and noninstrumental factors. Each of these factors Hockett methodically examines in this book, going into copious explanatory detail for each individual justice affected by each factor.

    The first chapter outlines the legal barriers to overturning the prior decision, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which held that the Fourteenth Amendment did not prohibit segregation as long as segregated groups were treated equally. These barriers included the fact that the same Congress which passed that amendment also legalized segregation in the District of Columbia. In addition, case law since Plessy had not weakened the right of states to segregate on the basis of race: the World War II cases Hirabayashi v. United States (1943) and Korematsu v. United States (1944) had reaffirmed the government’s right to classify people according to race, and intern Japanese-Americans during a war with Japan (despite the plaintiffs’ contention that this ruling limited detention by race to military emergency); and Sweatt v. Painter (1950), which desegregated state law schools, did so on the grounds that segregation in law school limited African American students’ ability to network, which the justices agreed was a major handicap for a legal career. To make the case that segregated primary schools (as in Brown) resulted in a similar handicap--and therefore that segregation of any kind was inherently unequal (which was made by the justices, not the plaintiffs), was a difficult leap. Additional barriers, noted by the defendants, were possible flaws in the methodology of the social science presented (and the fact the Court had never before used such evidence to determine constitutional questions).

    The second chapter looks closely at the attitudes of the individual justices to cover an aspect of instrumental decision making. To do this, Hockett examines both the justices’ actions and statements prior to appointment and then their “ideological drift”--the notion, based on opinions authored and votes rendered, that they changed their minds on civil rights or race relations once seated. The eight Democratic appointees represented the mixed bag of ideologies of the New Deal coalition, including northern liberals such as Felix Frankfurter (who stated that, as a Jew, he could empathize with the sufferings of blacks) and southerners like Hugo Black (who had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan). The sole Republican appointee, Warren, had advocated for a state fair employment law as governor of California. However, as Hockett is quick to point out, even the elite white liberal attitude towards civil rights at the time of the Brown decision did not encompass desegregation, but focused more on voting rights and anti-lynching legislation. President Truman had ordered desegregation of the armed forces, but that was considered very different from desegregating public elementary schools (and judging by the resegregation of the post-civil rights era, still is). Likewise, chapter 4 continues this exploration of the individual histories of each justice vis-à-vis their opinions on civil rights and desegregation.

    The third chapter points to a strategic model of decision making, wherein justices horse trade in hopes of support for future opinions; consider the political importance of the amicus briefs of the executive branch (whose support would be necessary to enforce any decisions); and look to the integrity of the Court, a sense of duty which can apparently move justices to vote against their own policy preferences for the sake of Court unity. This latter motivation appears to have at least partially applied to Justice Robert Jackson, who--despite being a northern New Dealer and a judge at the Nuremberg trials--took issue over the constitutionality of forcing the end of segregation and in particular had a problem with the use of social science evidence. In the end, Jackson sufficiently agreed with the legal merits to vote with the majority, but had to be lobbied to avoid issuing a concurrence--which might have weakened the political power of Warren’s majority opinion--for the sake of Court unity. The chapter makes excellent use of primary sources to examine the conference statements of individual justices on the case, going so far as to compare the handwritten notes of justices, several of whom apparently wrote down their colleagues’ comments.

    Demonstrating thorough dialogue with the latest trends in historical studies, chapter 5 looks at how the Cold War influenced the Brown decision, citing in particular the work of Mary Dudziak, and noting that executive-branch amicus curiae were used to push the Court towards a policy seen by the White House as necessary but politically fraught.2 The executive could accomplish its foreign policy goals through decisions such as Brown, but the judicial branch would take the political heat. The persistence of segregation and racial discrimination was being used as a propaganda tool by the Soviet Union to win over adherents in the decolonizing Third World, especially in Africa. The Court on the whole may have already been inclined to rule in Brown based partially on such international concerns, following the strategic model discussed in chapter 3, but Hockett finds no evidence that the decisions of individual justices were consciously influenced by the Cold War. This theory is borne out by the dramatic split in justices’ votes during the period: most voted in favor of civil rights most of the time, but in opposition to civil liberties, which were seen as antithetical to patriotic unity in the face of supposed Soviet aggression.

    In an apt pairing with the previous argument, chapter 6 looks at the importance of domestic politics on the decision-making process in Brown. Herein are examined the politics of the New Deal, and the discussion is less about the civil rights positions of those appointing presidents (Roosevelt and Truman) than their use of such appointments to build the case for an imperial executive and increased federal role in American life. Civil rights issues posed a potential political problem for Democrats, for outright advocacy in the party could result (and in 1948 had resulted) in a regional split. Republicans were divided between supporting black rights as an attempt to retain African American voters out of loyalty to the Party of Lincoln or work towards what would later be known as the Southern Strategy--peeling off white southern votes from the Democratic Party.

    The end result is a well-crafted, well-researched argument in favor of a more complex understanding of the motivations of individual justices which led to the Brown decision. The writing is oftentimes thick and has occasional recourse to jargon, and so it is not recommended for the general reader and will be a difficult book for most undergraduates. With that said, I highly recommend it for specialists in the history of the Supreme Court, civil rights, and the evolution of modern jurisprudential theory.

    Notes


    1. Rogers M. Smith, “Ideas, Institutions, and Strategic Choices,” Polity 28 (1995): 135-40, and “Political Jurisprudence, the 'New Institutionalism,’ and the Future of Public Law,” American Political Science Review 82 (1988): 89-108.

    2. Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton: NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).

     


     
    Protesting Affirmative Action: The Struggle over Equality after the Civil Rights Revolution
    Dennis Deslippe
    (Reconfiguring American Political History.) Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. xii + 282 pp.
    American Historical Review 118, No. 2, April, 2013

    In the United States today, all but the most unreconstructed racists at least pay lip service to voting rights and school and transit desegregation. Affirmative action, by contrast, has increased competition for whites who previously had a monopoly over desirable jobs and college admissions, and continues to generate controversy. In focusing on the origins of this controversy, Dennis Deslippe's Protesting Affirmative Action makes three major scholarly contributions. First, by outlining the opposition to affirmative action during the 1960s and 1970s, it relocates our understanding of a historical moment to a prior era. Second, it shows how early opposition was led by meritocratic liberals, in contrast to the conservatism of later opponents. Third, in recounting the 1974 Supreme Court case DeFunis v. Odegaard, it examines a watershed moment in the history of amicus curiae. DeFunis drew an unprecedented twenty seven of these friend-of-the-court briefs, heralding their modern use as a form of political participation (pp. 126-136). At the same time, this book has fundamental flaws.

    Two examples will serve to demonstrate the serious flaws of the book. One, a chapter on the Detroit Police Officers Association, founded to protect white dominance in the face of an affirmative action-oriented African American mayor, provides a detailed account of a major early confrontation. But never in this story does Deslippe mention internal colonialism, neglecting to explain why police diversity was necessary in the first place (p. 165). A second example is his explanation of Jewish opposition to affirmative action. Given the history of anti-Jewish quotas at elite academic institutions, American Jews had fought for meritocracy in admissions and hiring. Many therefore opposed affirmative action policies for their resemblance to quotas. But policies such as those contained in the Philadelphia Plan and college admissions programs were geared toward inclusion of minority groups, while the earlier quota systems had sought exclusion. Deslippe fails to point out what should be obvious: some American Jews wanted to knock down the ladders they had recently climbed.

    Another problem pertains to the author's characterization of affirmative action's opponents. Deslippe places them in three categories: "labor unionism, colorblind liberalism, and colorblind conservatism" (p. 3). But his definitions of "colorblind liberals" and the even more troubling "colorblind conservatives" are confusing and incomplete. Deslippe never really fleshes out what he means by "colorblind." In the United States, it is unlikely that anyone does not actually see race. For example, after quoting a Detroit police union slogan, "'We are not white, we are not black, [we are] all blue,'" Deslippe recounts how, during one protest, a white officer yelled "'We're gonna kill you ... niggers!'" (pp. 150-151). Racists have been quick to claim the colorblind mantle when it assists their efforts to maintain segregation, a point missed by the author. Nancy MacLean's work, cited in the text, depicts the development of modern conservatism as an adjunct to southern opposition to civil rights, but Deslippe overlooks this as well. He quotes MacLean as writing that the battle over affirmative action in the 1970s "'tutored the right in...a morally and politically legitimate language for continued racial and gender exclusion'" (p. 208). This hardly seems "colorblind."

    The book fails to demonstrate a nuanced understanding of "hard" and "soft" affirmative action. In Deslippe's view, "hard" affirmative action is defined as quotas, while "soft" is vaguely defined as "strong remedial affirmative action measures" (p. 5), perhaps including self-help programs, advertising of vacancies in black-owned periodicals, and the dissemination of black success stories. And yet every instance of so called hard affirmative action has elements of the soft in it, and vice versa. The hiring of a black person in the admissions office of an elite school, for the purpose of encouraging black applicants, would appear to be soft affirmative action; but by not hiring a white person instead, it becomes "hard." Establishing a goal of twenty percent black membership in the skilled building trades, as with the Philadelphia Plan, would appear to be "hard" affirmative action; but those new workers, employed on construction sites in predominantly black neighborhoods, inspired local black youths to pursue employment in previously off-limits careers—ergo "soft." Protesting Affirmative Action acknowledges none of these nuances.

    Overall, the book presents a confusing chronology: within topical chapters, it jumps back and forth, tending towards the anachronistic. Also, there is glaring inaccuracy in some of the citations: for example, Terry Anderson's book is entitled The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action (2004), not The Pursuit of Happiness. While Deslippe is to be commended for taking on a freighted topic within academic scholarship, especially in his willingness to discuss affirmative action in faculty hiring (pp. 49-78), the need remains for a more complete, nuanced investigation.

    David Hamilton Golland
    Governors State University



     


     
    After the Dream: Black and White Southerners since 1965
    Timothy J. Minchin and John A. Salmond
    Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011. x + 405 pp.
    Reviewed by David Hamilton Golland (Governors State University)
    Published on H-Law (June, 2011)
    Commissioned by Christopher R. Waldrep (San Francisco State University)

    I must begin this review with a disclosure: not only do the authors and I share a publisher, and not only are our books in the same series, but in fact they are sequential: mine follows theirs in the publication order. I have done my best to evaluate their work fairly. If I have erred in any direction it has been that I may be too critical of what is essentially a well-researched and -written book which fills a gap in the current scholarship and makes an important contribution to our understanding of the history of civil rights.

    After the Dream covers civil rights progress (and the lack thereof) in the South from 1965 through 2007, with a postscript on the historic election of President Barack Obama. The choice of the starting point is entirely logical. That year saw the high-water mark of interracial civil rights protests in the South at the march from Selma to Montgomery in March, followed by passage of the Voting Rights Act in June. In July, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went into effect. The choice of region is logical from the perspective of the authors’ attention to implementation of the Voting Rights Act and integration of public accommodations, but a full picture of the overall progress on civil rights on a national scale since the sixties is yet to be written.

    I count six rights denied to African Americans during Jim Crow. These are the right to fair or equal treatment in public accommodations (restaurants, public restrooms, water fountains, and the like), education, employment, housing, interracial marriage, and voting. By 1968 Congress or the Supreme Court had addressed all six of these areas. But only public accommodations, marriage, and voting were uniquely Southern problems, the other three being national in scope (whether the segregation was de facto or de jure). The authors’ choice to limit the scope of their book to the South is therefore complicated by their decisions as to which rights to discuss and which to leave out. Their focus on school desegregation and equal employment opportunity in a book about the South of necessity pays short shrift to the iterations of these national problems outside the region. Their focus on voting rights and representation, as well as the rapid desegregation of public facilities, however, is spot on. They pay very little attention to fair housing--also a national issue--but strangely none at all to the legality of interracial marriage, which by 1967 was a strictly Southern issue (all other states by then having abolished their “miscegenation” laws).

    The book’s genuine strengths lie in its treatment of the civil rights areas on which the authors focus: education, employment, and voting in the South since 1965, and its relation of the post-1965 efforts of individual civil rights leaders like Andrew Young and Coretta King (and less well-known figures like the North Carolina NAACP leader Kelly Alexander). Well-chosen photos accompany the text as an insert, and a penultimate chapter on history and memory includes an excellent exposition on the quest for justice in the cases of the civil rights era’s high-profile killings, especially the 1963 murders of James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County, Mississippi. And the authors’ references to various cities of the South by their nicknames (Birmingham, Alabama, as the “Magic City,” etc.) is both informative and fun, but more importantly reveal a penchant for local details.

    One particular civil rights area stands out in After the Dream. The authors’ focus on school desegregation is so thorough that at certain points the reader might be forgiven for assuming that this is really a book about the use of “forced” busing in the South to desegregate public school systems. While only one of the thirteen chapter titles (chapter 5) directly refers to the practice, busing is given complete treatment in nearly every chapter thereafter. An early attempt to meet the provisions of Brown, “freedom of choice,” allowed integration but only when fearless parents--the authors list Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Mrs. King among these--enrolled their children in formerly white schools. The 1971 Supreme Court decision in the case of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Board of Education set busing as the standard integration tool: districts with predominantly white and predominantly black schools would bus percentages of students from one neighborhood to another to integrate the schools, and formerly all-white and all-black districts would merge. This brought vociferous protests from white parents, and resulted in the founding of whites-only “segregation academies” for the wealthy and white flight to the suburbs for the less so. This, coupled with the parallel movement of better jobs from city to suburb, led to continued racial stratification in employment opportunity.

    On the subject of protests by white parents, it should be noted that throughout the book, the voices of white moderates and integrationists are heard, which is another of its strengths (and charms). But the reader is rarely given hard information on the proportional strength of such voices in the white community, and how that strength changed. Were such voices few and far between, or representative of a growing direction of opinion?

    Another area where the hard facts are left half-explained is Southern black office-holding. It’s clear from the book that Southern blacks made major strides in voter participation and representation. “In June 1973 there were 1,144 black elected officials in the South ... an impressive advance on the 72 offices blacks had held when the [Voting Rights Act] was passed” (p. 131), and “[b]etween 1968 and 1978, the number of black elected officeholders quadrupled, and most of these gains took place in the South” (p. 171). All well and good, but what was the percentage of black officeholders to total officeholders, and how did that relate to the percentage of blacks in the overall population? In other words, how proportional was black representation among Southern officeholders, and how did that change over time? That said, the treatment of voter participation is well covered.

    A few minor quibbles. The book poses a dichotomy between Titles VI and VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, implying that Title VI covers education while Title VII covers employment; in fact, both titles cover employment. Title VI covers the expenditure of government funds, which includes public education and employment on federal contracts. Second, the index is not intuitive and seems incomplete. Also, a list of abbreviations would have been nice; as it is, the reader must keep track of all acronyms. (There is a list of archive name abbreviations preceding the notes.)

    I must bring up Arthur Fletcher, who rates a brief and one-dimensional mention in the book (and, again for the sake of full disclosure, is the subject of my current research). The authors minimize him as one of “President Bush’s nomination problems” (p. 238). In fact, once confirmed, Fletcher proved something of a thorn in the president’s side during a period when Bush was trying to defeat what became the Civil Rights Act of 1991. (The attendant footnote does quickly mention Bush’s “displeasure” that Fletcher had become a “trenchant critic” [p. 368]). Further, the book incorrectly states that Fletcher “had also served briefly as secretary of labor in the Nixon administration.” Fletcher was Richard Nixon’s assistant secretary of labor for employment standards, never the secretary, and not briefly (he held the job for more than two years, longer than the average political appointment).

    On the whole, however, the research is sound, and the variety of the sources thorough. With the exception of the caveats raised above, this book is an important addition to the scholarship on civil rights, and is the definitive work on the implementation of the advances and setbacks made in the South in the cause of civil rights since 1965.



     


     
    Worked to the Bone
    Pem Davidson Buck
    New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001, viii + 279 pp.
    Labor History 46, No. 4, November, 2005, pp. 542-544

    Pem Davidson Buck’s Worked to the Bone almost immediately lives up to its initial promise: that it will present an elaborate conspiracy theory as an explanation of the events of the last four centuries of Anglo-American history (p.4). The “elites”—who generally remain nameless—conspire to drain the sweat, i.e. the product of labor, from the non-elite majority. Indeed, this book could well bear the subtitle “Everything I Need to Know about American History I Learned Fixing Other Peoples’ Sinks.” The methods for this “drainage” change from generation to generation, from agriculture to industry, from local to international elites, but the paradigm remains the same, and the result is an extremely limited take on Anglo-America.

    I should state up front that I agree, in general, with the broadest outlines of the thesis. That the United States was built out of a class struggle and an exploitation of the “little guy” by the “big guy” (p.3 and passim) and that justice, race, and gender are socially constructed, it seems to me, are beyond argument. I would venture that these views have been shared by the mainstream academy at least since the late 1960s.

    But Buck’s methodology is faulty. Fact after fact is presented, but her research is almost exclusively dependant on secondary sources. A survey of the endnotes of two sample chapters (Two and Eleven) contained only a single endnote citing primary source work, in this case census material (Chapter Two, n.35). Quotations are generally borrowed from other authors’ work.

    Interdisciplinary studies are in general a positive animal as they contribute to academic discussion; nonetheless, authors engaging in interdisciplinary work should at the very least familiarize themselves with the methodology of both disciplines. Such secondary source work as contained here may be perfectly acceptable for a work of anthropology, but as a work of history, Buck’s research is inadequate. In addition, the device of maintaining the anonymity of the counties ostensibly at the center of her study (but which, if the book’s attention to them is the dominant indicator, are peripheral to the thesis) may be standard in anthropology in order to protect living subjects; the practice, however, with its resultant inaccessibility of verification, is anathema to the study of history.

    I take particular issue with Buck’s repeated reference to the notion that “traditional” history (i.e. history written to support the social construction of the elites) remains the dominant trend in the field. “The dominant understanding of the past—an understanding shared by many Americans, the history taught in grade school, and then in gradually more complex versions through high school and often early college—is one that justifies the distribution of power in the present” (p.4). Evidently Buck has little understanding of the advances made in the discipline since the advent of the New Social History. The author goes further: “Newspaper editorials…blamed the failure of the Alliance stores and co-ops on financial mismanagement, as do some historians today” (p.96). Perhaps, but which historians? No endnote exists to back up the statement. Another example—again without an explanatory footnote—can be found on page 216: “In reality the American Dream…had come as a buyout after generations of…struggle…. But that fact was conveniently forgotten in the teaching of history and sociology.” Strange, given the author’s reliance on the work of such teachers of history as Kathleen Brown, Peter Kolchin, and Edmund Morgan!

    All too often, the reader is left wanting for more complete information or a better-developed argument. Buck’s implication, on page 170, that Martin Luther King was killed as the result of an elite conspiracy would have made for an interesting discussion had she spent more time on the subject. King’s killer was a member of the working class. Was he acting to preserve his “white wage?” And why not discuss how King’s birthday has been co-opted as a national holiday celebrating non-violence rather than militant anti-elitism? And in another unsatisfying dead-end: “With little but their sexuality to offer, some young men now are turning to muscle shirts, perming their hair and dying it to disguise the gray, and primping in front of a mirror, according so some of their mothers” (p.215). Added to the disturbing coupling of “young men” with gray hair, this might have served as the beginning of an important discussion of gender among non-elites, but instead the analysis comes up short. Particularly upsetting, of course, is the notion that an academic argument can be based on such an unscientific survey as “some of their mothers.”

    I would be remiss if I did not mention, at least in passing, the author’s sole analysis of import: the differences between nativism and producer-egalitarianism (Chapter Eight). These overlapping categories and Buck’s subsequent deployment of them in issues regarding race, class, and gender in the twentieth century were nuanced and solid. Other than that, unfortunately, there is little here of significance to scholarly discourse. One can get a more complete understanding of the thesis—and so much more—by reading the works of two of the historians most often cited in the limited endnotes: Howard Zinn and David Roediger.

    David Hamilton Golland
    Brooklyn College, CUNY

     


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