Several books reviewed in the Monitor when they were first published offer insight into the lives of 20th-century African-Americans.
THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE: THE LIFE OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, by Kay Mills (Plume, 390 pp., $12.95). The first biography of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, whose education was minimal but whose public speaking and singing captivated audiences, is aptly titled with one of her favorite songs. Hamer's successful efforts to register hundreds of thousands of black Mississippians to vote, and to include them in delegations to the Democratic National Convention, are chronicled here.
According to a Jan. 22, 1993 review by Elizabeth Levitan Spaid, journalist Kay Mills has written ``an extensive, carefully documented biography of this remarkable woman who became one of the heroines of the civil rights movement. The book briefly traces Hamer's humble beginnings and then focuses on her efforts until her death in 1977 to change a repressive system that controlled blacks politically, socially, and economically.''
DREAM MAKERS, DREAM BREAKERS: THE WORLD OF JUSTICE THURGOOD MARSHALL, by Carl T. Rowan (Little, Brown & Co., 475 pp., $12.95). In 1967, Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American named to the United States Supreme Court. But before his high court appointment, he was chief counsel to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was instrumental in winning several pivotal civil rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed segregation in public schools. His life is recounted by Carl Rowan, a Washington reporter and syndicated columnist who knew Marshall for 40 years.
James H. Andrews wrote in his review of Jan. 28, 1993: ``In this warm biography of the civil rights lawyer and judge who played a key role in abolishing Jim Crow segregation, Rowan draws on wide research and numberless hours he spent talking with Marshall.'' Andrews notes that the book ``doesn't pretend to be an objective portrayal,'' but instead offers ``insight into Marshall's heart and thinking.''
KING OF THE CATS: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ADAM CLAYTON POWELL, JR., by Wil Haygood (Houghton Mifflin, 476 pp., $14.95). Adam Clayton Powell Jr., a pastor in Harlem's Abyssian Baptist Church, became the first African-American elected to the New York City Council and in 1944 was the first black from New York elected to the House of Representatives. In Washington, he encountered and fought discrimination in both congressional and public venues, as he was repeatedly denied access to hotels, dining rooms, and barbers. His pressure on Congress to enact civil rights legislation made him unpopular with some of his colleagues, but resulted in major achievements like the inclusion of the controversial ``Powell Amendment'' (which prohibited government funding of programs with racist practices) in a bill that passed both houses.
Luix Overbea wrote in his review of Feb. 19, 1993 that journalist Wil Haygood's ``intriguing and unpredictable'' book has woven ``a fascinating tale that often reads like fiction. `King of the Cats' provokes thought for Powell's debunkers as well as his admirers.''