Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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With nearly 200 letters arranged chronologically under broad rubrics (e.g. Family, Courtship and Romance, Poli-tics and Social Justice, Across the Diaspora), Newkirk (Within the Veil) sets out to offer "a sweeping narrative history of the Black American experience." That is too large a claim; only sixteen letters precede the end of the Civil War, and while most of the public correspondence is essential (e.g. Benjamin Banneker to Thomas Jefferson, Phillis Wheatley to George Washington, James Baldwin's letter to his nephew, Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter to white clergymen), Newkirk's principle of selection is unclear. The author's bland section introductions do little to set a context for particular letters, though the head notes are generally useful. About half of the letters were written between 1900 and 1940, but it's up-to-date on the Obama campaign with letters from Rev. Wright and Toni Morrison. This is an instructive, moving even delightful primer on the myriad facets of African American private and public life. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Journalist Newkirk (Within the Veil) presents correspondence from men and women who lived through the tumultuous events of the 18th through the 21st century, from slavery to the war in Iraq. Politicians, entertainers, slaves, and many more define their struggles and triumphs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Adult/High School-This superb collection of more than 200 letters ranges widely in time, subject matter, and language, and as a unit it adds immeasurably to the singular story of a people, expressing in the most intimate terms the hopes, fears, struggles, tragedies, and triumphs of African Americans. From slavery to post-9/11, from Phillis Wheatley to Barack Obama, the book gathers correspondence from politicians, writers, and academics, as well as slaves, sharecroppers, servicemen, and domestic workers. Many well-known names are included: Martin Luther King, Jr., Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker. But the most moving entries are the barely literate and astonishingly painful pleas for family, and for simple justice, by otherwise nameless individuals of the Jim Crow era. Here are people with no hope left other than the belief that death will bring the reunion in Heaven of husband and wife, mother and son. The letters are arranged chronologically within broad subject areas such as family, courtship and romance, and politics and social justice. Each section has a brief introduction by Newkirk, just enough to set the stage. There are 16 pages of well-chosen black-and-white photographs, mostly portraits and samples of correspondence. By far, the strength of this volume lies in the indispensable glimpse it provides into the hearts and minds of strong, resilient Americans.-Robert Saunderson, formerly at Berkeley Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Collecting letters written by African Americans that span the past 200 years, Newkirk (journalism, NYU; Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media) presents snapshots of the black experience that vary with each piece of correspondence. This anthology features the writings of individuals who range from highly celebrated to barely literate and presents stories that are of vital historical importance and touchingly personal. Newkirk divides the letters by topic-covering family, courtship and romance, politics and social justice, education and scholarship, war, art and culture, and the African diaspora-and offers concise introductions to each. Notes from the editor appear throughout, which provide valuable context and make this work as accessible to general readers as to students of American history. While this unique collection of letters represents a frank depiction of the black experience, the great achievement is that these writings often go far beyond race and class to simply tell the story of the human experience in America. Highly recommended for public and undergraduate libraries.-Allen McGinley, Piscataway P.L., NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

The low literacy rates among African Americans during slavery and after emancipation has presented a challenge to collecting an anthology of historical letters. But Newkirk has drawn on archives and private collections to amass more than 200 letters written by African Americans from the eighteenth through the twentieth century. The letters are organized chronologically within each section, with early letters often written by others expressing longing for freedom and reunion with family members and news of births, deaths, and family members sold away. The collection includes letters by the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar to his mother, telling her of meeting Frederick Douglass; W. E. B. DuBois, who reminds his daughter to do well in school; and Martin Luther King Jr., who updates his parents on his progress in school and in later letters encourages Coretta during one of his incarcerations while she is pregnant. The letters are organized by category: family, romance, politics, education, war, art and culture, and across the diaspora. This collection offers an intimate look at the joys and concerns in the lives of ordinary and famous black Americans.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2009 Booklist