Books by Nicholas Berdyaev
Meaning of the Creative Act
(1916; translated 1955),
Destiny of Man (1931; translated 1937),
Society (1934; translated 1939),
Spirit and Reality
(1937; translated 1939), and
Slavery and Freedom (1939;
* * * *
as Russian Imperialism
Culture & Myth at Core of
By Nicholas Berdyaev
Nicholas Berdyaev (1874-1948)
-- Russian philosopher, was probably the greatest
Orthodox theologian of the first half of the twentieth century.
He was also a leading figure in the existentialist school of
philosophy, a role he acquired after taking up residence in the
West in 1922.
In his Origin of Russian
Communism, an excerpt from which is given below, Berdyaev
expounds the thesis that communism, although it came to Russia
from the West, was completely transformed by conditions in
Russia. In the beginning, Communism made little sense in Russia,
for an industrial proletariat hardly existed there.
But when Lenin, the founder of
the Bolshevik party, replaced the traditional but outworn
Russian myth of the Third Rome with the new messianic myth of
the international proletariat, and when he replaced a
discredited tsarist autocracy with the dictatorship of the
proletariat, he was able to re-establish a tottering and
demoralized tsardom on a new, and firm, religious base.
Thus for Berdyaev the
ideological doctrine and the governmental practices of Soviet
Russia are only secondarily Marxist or Communist. They derive
mainly from the tsarist past.
* * * *
And in actual fact Russian Marxism,
since it had risen in a country still not industrialized and
with no developed proletariat, was bound to be torn by a
moral self-contradiction which weighed upon the conscience
of many Russian socialists. How is it possible to desire the
growth of capitalism, to welcome this growth, and at the same
time to regard capitalism as an evil and a moral wrong
against which every socialist is called to fight?
This complicated question gives rise to moral
conflict. The growth of capitalist industry in Russia
presupposed the turning of the peasantry into a proletariat,
depriving them of their means of production, i.e. reducing a
considerable part of the nation to a condition of beggary.
This double-mindedness in assigning the
values of capitalism and the bourgeoisie is to be seen in Marxism
in its most classical form. Marx, in so far as he took his
stand upon the evolutionary point of view and recognized the
existence of various stages in history, to which different
values are to be assigned, set a high value upon the mission of
the bourgeoisie in the past and the role of capitalism in the
development of the material strength of mankind.
The whole conception of Marxism is very much
dependent on the growth of capitalism and adjusts the messianic
idea of the proletariat--which has nothing in common with
science--to capitalist industry. Marxism believes that the
factory, and the factory alone, will create the new man. . . .
But the first Russian Marxists were faced with a moral problem
and a problem of cognition, and it set up a moral and logical
We shall see that this moral conflict was
decided only by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. It is precisely
the Marxist Lenin who will assert the possibility of
establishing socialism in Russia independently of the
development of capitalism and before a working class of any
great size was organized.
Considering Marxism in Russia
Plekhanov [the leader of the Mensheviks]
declared himself against confusing the revolution which was to
overthrow the absolute monarchy with the social revolution. He
was opposed to a revolutionary socialist seizure of power, i.e.
tot he Communist revolution in the course it actually took. the
social revolution must be waited for. The liberation of the
workers should be the work of the workers themselves, not of a
This needs an increase in the number of
workers, the development of their consciousness; it presupposes
a greater development of industry. Plekhanov was fundamentally
the enemy of Bakuninism, which he regarded as a mixture
of Fourier and Stenka Razin. he was opposed to sedition and
conspiracy, to Jacobinism and belief in committees.
A dictatorship can achieve nothing unless the
working class has been prepared for revolution. He stresses the
reactionary character of the peasant commune as a hindrance to
One must rely upon the objective social
process. Plekhanov did not accept the Bolshevik revolution,
because he was always opposed to the seizure of power of power
for which neither strength nor consciousness had been prepared.
What is needed above all is the revolutionizing of thought, not
an elemental upheaval, and a revolutionizing of the thought of
the working class itself, not of a partisan organized minority.
But with such an application of Marxist
principles to Russia, there would be long to wait for the social
revolution. The very possibility of direct socialist activity in
Russia would be made a matter of doubt. The revolutionary will
might be finally crushed by intellectual theory.
Thus, the more revolutionary-minded
Russian Marxists were obliged to interpret Marxism in some
other way and to set up other theories of the Russian
Revolution, to work out other tactics. In this wing of Russian
Marxism, the revolutionary will overcame the intellectual
theories and the armchair interpretation of Marxism.
There occurred unnoticed a combination of the
traditions of revolutionary Marxism with those of the old
revolutionary outlook which had no desire to tolerate a
capitalist stage in the development of Russia, with
Chernishevsky, Bakunin, Nechaev, Thackev. This time it was not
Fourier but Marx who was united with Stenka Razin.
The Marxists who were Bolsheviks stood much
more clearly in the line of Russian tradition than those who
were Mensheviks. On the basis of the evolutionary determinist
interpretation of Marxism it is impossible to justify a
proletarian socialist revolution in a peasant country,
industrially backward and with a feebly developed working class.
With such an understanding of Marxism
one must rely first of all on a bourgeois revolution, on
the development of capitalism and then, when the time
comes, bring about the socialist revolution. This was not
very favorable to the stimulation of the revolutionary will.
. . .
Orthodox Totalitarian Marxism
This 'orthodox' [Leninist] Marxism which was
in actual fact Marxism which had been changed by being given a Russian
form, adopted primarily not the determinist, evolutionary
scientific side of Marxism, but its messianic side, which
gave scope to the stimulation of the revolutionary will,
and assigned a foremost place to the proletariat's
revolutionary struggle as controlled by an organized
minority, which was inspired by the conscious proletariat
This orthodox totalitarian Marxism always
insisted on the preaching of materialist belief, but it
contained strong idealist elements also. It showed how great was
the authority of an idea over human life, if it is an integrated
idea, and answers to the instincts of the masses.
In Boshevist Marxism the proletariat ceased
to be an empirical reality, for as an empirical the proletarian
was a mere nothing; it was above all the idea of a proletariat
that mattered, and those who became vehicles for the expression
of this idea might be an insignificant minority.
If this insignificant minority is entirely
possessed by the gigantic idea of the proletariat, if its
revolutionary will is stimulated, if it is well organized and
disciplined, then it can work miracles; it can overpower the
determinism which normally controls social life.
And Lenin proved in practice that this is
possible. He brought about the revolution in Marx's name, but
not in Marx's way. The Communist revolution was brought about in
Russia in the name of totalitarian Marxism--Marxism as
the religion of the proletariat, but it was a
contradiction of everything that Marx had said about the
development of human society.
It was not revolutionary narodnichestvo
[a utopian peasant socialism], but orthodox totalitarian
Marxism which succeeded in achieving the revolution, in
which Russia skipped that stage of capitalist development which
to the first Russian Marxists had appeared so unavoidable. And
it was clear that this agreed with Russian tradition and the
instincts of the people.
Peasant Myths & Messianic Ideas
At that time the illusions of the revolutionary
narodnichestvo had already been outlived; the myth
about the peasantry had collapsed. The people had not accepted a
revolutionary intelligentsia. A new revolutionary myth was
needed. And the myth about the people was changed into the myth
about the proletariat.
Marxism broke up the conception of the
people as an integral organism. It analyzed it into classes
with opposed interests. But in the myth of the proletariat, the
myth of the Russian people arose in a new form. There took
place, as it were, an identification of the Russian people with
the proletariat, and of Russian messianism with proletarian
The Soviet Russia of workers and peasants
came into being. In it the notion of the people as a peasantry
was combined with the idea of it as a proletariat, and that in
spite of everything that had been said by Marx, who regarded the
peasantry as a petty-bourgeois, reactionary class. Orthodox
totalitarian Marxism forbade any reference to the opposition
between the interests of the proletariat and those of the
That was the rock on which Trotsky struck,
desiring as he did to be true to classical Marxism. The
peasantry was declared to be a revolutionary class, although the
Soviet the Soviet Government had constantly to fight it,
sometimes very bitterly. Lenin turned anew tot he old
tradition of Russian revolutionary thought. He pronounced that
the industrial backwardness of Russia, the rudimentary character
of its capitalism, is a great asset for the social revolution.
There will be no need to deal with a strong
organized bourgeoisie. Then Lenin was obliged to repeat what Tkachev had said, and by no means what Engels had said.
Bolshevism is much more traditional than is commonly supposed.
It agreed with the distinctive character of the Russian
historical process. There had taken place a Russification and
orientalizing of Marxism. . . .
Structuring the Revolutionary Party
Lenin's purpose, which he followed up with
unusual logical consistency, was the formation of a strong party
representing a well organized and iron disciplined minority and
relying upon the strength of its integrated revolutionary
Marxist outlook. The party had to have a doctrine in which
nothing whatever is to be changed and it had to prepare for
dictatorship over life as a complete whole.
The very organization of the party, which was
centralized in the extreme, was a dictatorship on a small scale.
Every member of the party was subjected to this dictatorship of
The Bolshevik party which Lenin built up in
the course of many years was to provide the pattern of the
future organization of the whole of Russia, and in actual fact
Russia was organized on the pattern of the Bolshevik party
organization. The whole of Russia, the whole Russian people, was
subjected not only to the dictatorship of the Communist party
but also to the dictatorship of the communist dictator, in
thought and in conscience. Lenin denied freedom within the party
and the denial of freedom was transferred to the whole of
This is indeed the dictatorship of a general
outlook for which Lenin had prepared. he was able to do this
only because he combined in himself two traditions: the
tradition of the Russian intelligentsia in its most maximalist
tendency, and the tradition of Russian Government in its most
The Social Democrat Mensheviks and the Social
Revolutionaries remained in the stream of the first tradition
only, and that in a mitigated form. But combining in himself
traditions which in the nineteenth century had been in mortal
conflict, Lenin was able to fashion a scheme for the
organization of a Communist state and to realize it.
Dictatorship of Proletariat, an
However paradoxical it may sound, still
Bolshevism is the third appearance of Russian autocratic
imperialism. Its first appearance being the Muscovite Tsradom
and its second the Petrine Empire. Bolshevism stands for
a strong centralized state. A union was achieved of the will to
social justice and the will to political power, and the second
will was the stronger.
Bolshevism entered into Russian life as a
power which was militarized in the highest degree, but the old
Russian state also had always been militarized.
The problem of power was fundamental
with Lenin and all his followers; it distinguished the
Bolsheviks from all other revolutionaries. They too created a
police state, in its methods of government very like the old
Russian state. But to organize government, to subject to it the
laboring and peasant masses, could not be a matter of the use of
armed force alone or of sheer coercion.
An integrated doctrine was needed, a
consistent general outlook, and symbols which held the state
together were required. In the Muscovite Tsardom and in the
empire the people were held together by a unity of religious
faith so also a new single faith had to be expressed
for the masses in elementary symbols. Marxism in its Russian
form was wholly suitable for this. . . .
Lenin did not believe in man. He
recognized in him no sort of inward principle; he did not
believe in spirit and the freedom of the spirit, but he had a
boundless faith in the social regimentation of man. He believed
that a compulsory social organization could create any sort of
new man you like, for instance, a completely social man who
would no longer need the use of force.
Marx believed the same thing, that the new
man could be manufactured in factories. This was Lenin's
utopianism, but it was a utopianism which could be and was
realized. One thing he did not foresee that class oppression
might take an entirely different form, quite unlike its
The dictatorship of the proletariat, having
increased the power of the state, is developing a colossal
bureaucracy which spreads like a network over the whole
country and brings everything into subjection to itself. This
new Soviet bureaucracy is more powerful than that of the
tsarist regime. It is a new privileged class which
can exploit the masses pitilessly.
This is happening. An ordinary workman very
often receives 75 rubles a month, but a Soviet civil servant, a
specialist, gets 1,600 rubles a month, and this portentous
inequality exists in a Communist state. Soviet Russia is a
country of state capitalism which is capable of exploitation
no less than a private capitalism.
The transitional period may be drawn out
indefinitely. Those who are in power in it acquire a taste for
power and desire no changes, which are unavoidable for the final
realization of Communism. The will-to-power becomes
satisfying in itself and men will fight for it as an end and not
as a means.
All this was beyond Lenin's view. In this he
was particularly utopian and very naive. The Soviet state has
become like any other despotic state. It uses the same methods
of falsehood and violence. It is first and foremost a state of
the military police kind. Its international politics are as like
the diplomacy of bourgeois states as two peas.
The Communist revolution was distinctively
Russian, but the miraculous birth of the new life did not take
place. The old Adam has remained and continues to act, if in
another form. . . .
Dominating the Whole of Life
Bolshevism made use of everything for its own
triumph. It made use of the weakness of the Liberal Democratic
government [of 1917], of the unsuitability of its watchwords to
weld the insurgent masses together. It made use of the disorganization
and discontent of the peasantry and divided all the land
among the peasants, destroying what was left of feudalism
and the dominance of the nobility.
It made use of the Russian traditions of
government by imposition, and instead of an unfamiliar
Democracy of which they had had no experience it proclaimed a
dictatorship which was more like the old rule of the tsar.
It made use of the characteristics of the
Russian spirit in all its incompatibility with a secularized
bourgeois society. It made use of its religious instinct,
its dogmatism and maximalism, its search after social
justice and the kingdom of God upon earth, its capacity for sacrifice
and the patient bearing of suffering, and also of its
manifestations of coarseness and cruelty.
It made use of Russian messianism,
which still remained, though in an unconscious form, and of the
Russian faith in Russia's own path of development. It made use
of the historic cleavage between the masses and the
cultured classes, of the popular mistrust of the
intelligentsia, and it easily destroyed such of the
intelligentsia as did not submit to it.
It absorbed also the sectarian spirit
of the Russian intelligentsia and Russian narodnichestvo
while transforming them in accordance with the requirements
of a new epoch. It fitted in with the absence among the
Russian people of the Roman view of property and the bourgeois
virtues; it fitted in with Russian collectivism which had
its roots in religion; it made use of the breakdown of
patriarchal life among the people and the dissolution of
the old religious beliefs.
It also set about spreading the new
revolution by methods of violence from above, as Peter
had done in his time; it denied human freedom, which had been
unknown to the masses before, and had been the privilege of the
upper cultured classes of society, and for which the masses had
certainly not been roused to fight.
It proclaimed the necessity of the
integral totalitarian outlook of a dominant creed, which
corresponded with the habits, experience, and requirements of
the Russian people in faith and in the dominating principles of
life. The Russian spirit is not prone to scepticism, and
a sceptical liberalism suits it less than anything.
The spirit of the people could very readily
pass from one integrated faith to another integrated faith, from
one orthodoxy to another orthodoxy which embraced the whole of
Russia passed from the Old Middle Ages to the
New Middle Ages, avoiding the ways of the new history
with its secularization, its differentiation of various fields
of culture, with its liberalism, its individualism, its triumph
of the bourgeoisie and of capitalism.
The Third Internationalism An
The old consecrated Russian empire fell and a
new one was formed, also a consecrated empire, an inverted
theocracy. Marxism, itself so un-Russian in origin and
character, assumed a russian style, an oriental style
Even the old Slavophil's dream of
transferring the capital from St. Petersburg to Moscow, to the
Kremlin, was realized by the Red Communists, and Russian
Communism proclaimed anew the old idea of the Slavophils and
Dostoyevsky--ex Oriente lux. Light proceeds from Moscow,
from the Kremlin, a light to lighten the bourgeois darkness of
At the same time Communism creates a despotic
and bureaucratic state, called into being to dominate the whole
of life of the people, not only in body but also in soul, in
accord with the traditions of Ivan the Terrible and the rule of
Marxism in its Russian form proclaims the
dominance of politics over economics, the power of the
government to change the life of the country in any way he
likes. In its grandiose schemes which were always on a
world-wide scale, Communism makes use of the Russian disposition
for making plans and castle-building which had hitherto had no
scope for realization or practical application.
Lenin desired to overcome Russian sloth, the
product of the life of the gentry and of serfdom, to conquer
Oblomov and Rudin, the 'superfluous people', and in this
positive task it seems he was successful.
A metamorphosis has taken place, i.e. an
Americanization of the Russian people, the production of a new
type of practical man with whom daydreaming and castle-building
passed into action and constructiveness, of a technician, a
bureaucrat of a new type.
But here also the special characteristics of
the Russian spirit had their say. The faith of the people was
given a new direction, the Russian peasants now reverence the
machine as totem. Technical undertakings are not the ordinary
matter-of-fact customary affair that they are to Western people;
they have been given a mystic character and linked on with plans
for an almost cosmic revolution. . .
The Russian people [had] not realized their
messianic idea of Moscow the third Rome. The ecclesiastical
schism of the seventeenth century revealed that the muscovite
tsardom is not the third Rome: still less, of course, was the
Petersburg empire a realization of the idea of the Third Rome.
In it a final cleavage took place.
The messianic idea of the Russian people
assumed either an apocalyptic form or a revolutionary; and then
there occurred an amazing event in the destiny of the Russian
people. Instead of the Third Rome in Russia, the Third
International was achieved, and many of the features of the
Third Rome pass over to the Third International.
The Third International is also a consecrated
realm, and it also is founded on an orthodox faith. The fact
that the Third International is not international but a Russian
national idea is very poorly understood in the West. Here we
have the transformation of Russian messianism.
Western Communists, when they join the Third
International, play a humiliating part; they do not understand
that in joining the Third International they are joining the
Russian people and realizing its messianic vocation.
I have heard that at a French Communist
meeting a French Communist asserted, "Marx said that the
workmen have no fatherland. This used to be true, but now it is
no longer true; they have a fatherland, that is, Russia, Moscow,
and the workers should defend their fatherland."
This is absolutely true and ought to be
understood by everybody. Something ahs happened which Marx and
the Western Marxists could not have foreseen, and that is a sort
of identification of the two messianisms, the messianism of the
Russian people and the messianism of the Russian proletariat.
The Russian working class and peasantry are a
proletariat; and the proletariat of the whole world from France
to China is becoming the Russian people--a unique people in the
world; and the messianic consciousness of the working class and
proletariat is bringing about an almost Slavophil attitude
towards the West.
The West is always identified with the
bourgeoisie and capitalism. The nationaliization of Russian
Communism, to which all bear witness, has its course in the fact
that Communism has come into existence in only one country, in
Russia, and the communist realm is surrounded by bourgeois
capitalist states. A Communist revolution in a single country
inevitably leads to nationalism and a nationalist standpoint in
political relations with other countries. . . .
In Soviet Russia now they talk about the
socialist fatherland and they want to defend it; they are ready
to sacrifice their lives for it. But the socialist fatherland is
still the same Russia, and in Russia perhaps popular patriotism
is coming into being for the first time. . .
Source: Kenneth M. Setton and Henry K. Winbler,
eds. Great Problems in European Civilization. Englewood Cliffs,
N.J.: Prentice-Holt, Inc., 1958
* * * *
Nikolay Aleksandrovich Berdyaev (1874-1948)
— born of an aristocratic family on March 19, 1874, in Kyyiv
and educated at a military academy and at the University of
Kyyiv—described his philosophical method as "intuitive
and aphoristic rather than discursive and systematic."
The foundation of his world view was his
concept of the Ungrund, the mysterious primordial freedom
from which God emerges. Out of this Ungrund, or uncreated
potentiality, God creates humans, spiritual beings whose freedom
and capacity for creativity were of the utmost importance to
Berdyaev—initially supported the Russian
Revolution (1917), then became critical of Marxism—has been
called the philosopher of freedom, for he was preoccupied with
the liberation of personality from all that inhibits free
This concern led him to struggle against a
"collectivized and mechanized society," envisioning a
community in which religious, social, and political relations
would enhance personal freedom. The Bolsheviks deported him from
Russia in 1922.
Berdyaev felt that human creativity is
destined to fail tragically in this fallen world. He was
confident, however, of the eventual coming of the kingdom of
God, an event toward which the Christian's creative activity
Berdyaev’s most important books are
Meaning of the Creative Act (1916; translated 1955),
Destiny of Man (1931; translated 1937),
Society (1934; translated 1939),
Spirit and Reality
(1937; translated 1939), and
Slavery and Freedom (1939;
In Berlin he founded the Academy of
Philosophy and Religion, which he moved to Paris in 1924. In
Paris he also founded and edited the influential journal Put
(The Way, 1925-1940). He died in Clamart, France, on
March 24, 1948
* * * *
By Lorraine Hansberry
I can hear Rosalee
See the eyes of Willie McGee
My mother told me about
My mother told me about
The dark nights
And dirt roads
And torch lights
And lynch robes
faces of men
Faces of men
Dead in the night
* * *
Writer Lorraine Hansberry's
sober eulogy of the death of Willie McGee weighed heavy on the
hearts and minds of the American Left. On May 8, 1951, a crowd of
five hundred lingered outside the courthouse of Laurel, Mississippi,
to witness the execution of yet another black man convicted for
allegedly raping a white woman. His 1945 lightning trial resulted in
a guilty conviction delivered in less than two and a half minutes by
an all-white, male jury, setting off a heated five-year legal
struggle that drew national headlines. Despite an aggressive appeals
defense team who attempted every legal maneuver in the book, the US
Supreme Court ultimately chose not to intervene. With the legal
lynching of the Martinsville Seven in February, Ethel and Julius
Rosenberg's conviction in March, followed by the execution of McGee
in May, 1951 was a bad year for Left-leaning lawyers (Parrish 1979;
Rise 1995). Most discouraging, national news sources like the New
York Times and Life magazine red-baited the "Save Willie
McGee" campaign and—as Life reported—its "imported" lawyers (Popham
1951a; Life 1951). Few felt McGee's passing with as heavy a heart as
his chief counsel, thirty-one-year-old Bella Abzug.
Before Abzug became a representative in
Congress and a leader in the peace and women's movements, she confronted the
Southern political and legal system at the height of the early Cold War.
Retained in 1948 by the Civil Rights Congress (CRC)—a New York-headquartered
Popular Front legal defense organization—the novice labor lawyer honed her civil
rights . . .
* * *
* * *
Debt: The First 5,000 Years
By David Graeber
Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors. Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections.
He also brilliantly demonstrates that the
language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like
“guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from
ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas
of right and wrong.
We are still fighting these battles today without
knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.
Economist Glenn Loury /Criminalizing a Race
* * * * *
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarceration—but her
carefully researched, deeply engaging,
and thoroughly readable book should
* * *
Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement
Lewis and Michael D’Orso
Alabama sharecropper's son, went to Nashville to
attend a Baptist college where, at the end of the
1950s, his life and the new civil rights movement
became inexorably entwined. First came the lunch
counter sit-ins; then the Freedom Rides; the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Lewis's
election to its chairmanship; the voter registration
drives; the 1963 march on Washington; the Birmingham
church bombings; the murders during the Freedom
Summer; the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party;
Bloody Sunday in Selma in 1964; and the march on
Montgomery. Lewis was an active, leading member
during all of it. Much of his account, written with
freelancer D'Orso, covers the same territory as
The Children. Halberstam himself appears
here briefly as a young reporter but Lewis imbues it
with his own observations as a participant.
He is at times so self-effacing in this memoir that he
underplays his role in the events he helped create. But he has a
sharp eye, and his account of Selma and the march that followed
is vivid and personal. He describes the rivalries within the
movement as well as the enemies outside.
After being forced out of
SNCC because of internal politics, Lewis served in President
Carter's domestic peace corps, dabbled in local Georgia
politics, then in 1986 defeated his old friend Julian Bond in a
race for Congress, where he still serves. Lewis notes that
people often take his quietness for meekness. His book, a
uniquely well-told testimony by an eyewitness, makes clear that
such an impression is entirely inaccurate.—Publishers
* * * * *
The Black Count
Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
By Tom Reiss
Here is the remarkable true story of the real Count of Monte
Cristo—a stunning feat of historical sleuthing that brings to
life the forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The
Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. The
real-life protagonist of The Black Count, General Alex
Dumas, is a man almost unknown today yet with a story that is
strikingly familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre
Dumas, used it to create some of the best loved heroes of
literature. Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures
was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of
a black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of
his race would before our own time. Born in Saint-Domingue (now
Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his
way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of
the French aristocracy.
Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at
the height of the Revolution, in an audacious
campaign across Europe and the Middle East—until he
met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.
* * * * *
The Courage to Hope
How I Stood Up to the Politics of Fear
Sherrod sets the
record straight on her forced resignation from the Department of
Agriculture in 2010. The author. . .was director for the USDA's
Rural Development in Georgia when conservative political blogger
Andrew Breitbart attacked her for allegedly reverse racist comments
she made at an NAACP event. The threat of exposure on national TV
was enough to send the USDA running for cover, and she was
dismissed. Sherrod decided she had to fight back. She and her
husband have been directly involved in the struggles for political
and economic justice in Georgia and elsewhere since the 1960s, and
they were part of Martin Luther King's movement for civil rights.
She writes about growing up in segregated Georgia and the
circumstances surrounding her father’s murder and the arson of her
family home—at that time, “fear was the daily diet that kept the
status quo alive.” In the ’70s, Sherrod and her husband worked with
other farmers in Georgia on experimental projects.
Denied drought assistance funds by the USDA, they faced foreclosure and joined a
class-action suit to redress the discrimination. Eventually, they
won the settlement, a decision strongly opposed by conservatives.
Sherrod writes sharply about the continuing legacy of racism and how
economic policy, hidebound bureaucracy and plain malice affect poor
people everywhere, and why pretending that we are in a post-racial
world doesn’t help anyone. An inspiring memoir about the real power
of courage and hope.
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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updated 24 September 2012