by Ethan Michaeli
Hardcover: 656 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Released: Jan. 12, 2016
Source: ARC review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.
Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Giving voice to the voiceless, the Chicago Defender condemned Jim Crow, catalyzed the Great Migration, and focused the electoral power of black America. Robert S. Abbott founded The Defender in 1905, smuggled hundreds of thousands of copies into the most isolated communities in the segregated South, and was dubbed a "Modern Moses," becoming one of the first black millionaires in the process.
His successor wielded the newspaper’s clout to elect mayors and presidents, including Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy, who would have lost in 1960 if not for The Defender’s support. Along the way, its pages were filled with columns by legends like Ida B. Wells, Langston Hughes, and Martin Luther King.
Drawing on dozens of interviews and extensive archival research, Ethan Michaeli constructs a revelatory narrative of race in America and brings to life the reporters who braved lynch mobs and policemen’s clubs to do their jobs.
The Defender is American history covering the 1900s with a focus on issues affecting the black population. It mainly covered 1905 to 1983, with a brief look at events leading up to the founding of the paper and of events after 1983 until the paper closed. We're told details about The Defender and the people working there. However, mainly it's a history of Chicago and America.
While it's a thick book, the author did a good job of making it interesting and easy to read. For example, I care nothing for boxing, yet I got tense reading about the boxing matches because the author managed to capture the excitement and tension of the time and transmit it to me. We're told about major events that were covered by The Defender, often with information about what the white papers or other black-run papers said about the events. I felt like I was given a fair view of events and was allowed to come to my own conclusions rather than being told what to think or getting only one side. I really appreciate history books like this one.
When I was in high school, we totally skipped the 1900s. Even the college-level "Modern History" class focused mainly on the wars and politics. I wish I'd read this book as a high school student. I've long wondered about some of the things that this book covered and was totally ignorant of others. It gave important insights into why America is the way it is today. Obviously, I'd highly recommend this very informative book. (I'm a white gal, but this is a book for everyone.)
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.