Critic's Corner

By Charlotte Bruce Harvey '78 / September / October 2002
June 29th, 2007
Martin Luther King Jr. is in danger of being turned into an Uncle Tom, writes Anthony Walton '87 in the August issue of Harper's. The United States, he argues, has failed to follow up on too many of King's victories, leaving a legacy of unmet hopes. Among the books Walton cites is Professor Emeritus of History James T. Patterson's 2001 Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (Oxford University Press, $27.50). Patterson's "thoroughly researched accounting of the history of the Brown lawsuits, including the failures of enforcement, unyielding and ever-changing white resistance, and the concomitant tragedies growing out of the frustration of black hopes as they were dashed in the eighties, creates a dismal portrait," Walton writes. "And the failure of the schools to meet the expectations - once so widespread - of social transformation has created a malignant and bitter disappointment; Patterson shows with painful clarity the roots of black mistrust and cynicism." Writing in the Washington Post last year, Jonathan Yardley described Patterson's book as "a useful introduction to the subject, or for those already familiar with it, as a refresher course." It is, he noted, "a reminder that in an imperfect and contentious world, necessary ends are often reached through imperfect and divisive means."
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September / October 2002