Why We Fight -- Congress and the Politics of World War II by Nancy Beck Young, Kansas UPress '13, $39.95, 366 pages, ASIN #0700619178. Index, bibliography, essay on sources, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
While author Nancy Beck Young concentrates on the advent of the Second World War in her new book, she discusses the First World War (or the "Great War", if you choose) in discussing the effect of political factions during the run-up to both wars and how seemingly irreconcilable differences were bridged by a faction -- moderates -- that is hardly even a player in today's Congressional debates.
While the author doesn't compare the intransigence of isolationists in battling against America's entry into the world wars to today's Tea Party conservatives in resisting any change proposed by the White House, it's an interesting issue to ponder. But while moderate Democrats and Republicans seem incapable today of reining in the right-wing conservatives, moderates in both parties were instrumental in formulating policy compromises, not only over the wars but over social policies spawned by the New Deal.
For example, Young writes that "scaling back on certain domestic reforms was an essential compromise liberals and moderates made in order to institutionalize the New Deal economic order. Some programs were rejected -- including the Civilian Conservation Corps, the National Youth Administration, and the Works Progress Administration -- while others, like the Wagner Act and economic regulation, were institutionalized. But on other issues such as refugee policy, racial discrimination, and hunting communist spies, the discord proved insurmountable."
Nancy Beck Young chairs the Department of History at the University of Houston and has written several books about American politics.
Richmond Must Fall -- The Richmond--Petersburg Campaign, October 1864 by Hampton Newsome, Kent State UPress '13, $65, 447 pages, ASIN #160635132X. Index, bibliography, notes, two appendices, grouping of b&w glossy images, other b&w images sprinkled through text.
From the book jacket:
"In the fall of 1864, the Civil War's outcome rested largely on Abraham Lincoln's success in the upcoming presidential election. As the contest approached, cautious optimism buoyed the president's supporters in the wake of Union victories at Atlanta and in the Shenandoah Valley. With all eyes on the upcoming election, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant conducted a series of large-scale military operations outside Richmond and Petersburg, which have, until now, received little attention.'
"In Richmond Must Fall, Hampton Newsome examines these October battles in unprecedented scope and detail. The narrative begins with one of Lee's last offensive operations of the war at the Darbytown Road on October 7, 1864, and ends with Grant's major offensive on October 27 to seize the South Side Railroad, the last open rail line into the Confederate stronghold at Petersburg. The offensive would spark sharp fighting at Burgess Mill south of Petersburg and on the Williamsburg Road east of Richmond.....
"Drawing on an array of original sources, Newsome focuses on the October battles themselves, examining the plans for the operations, the decisions made by commanders on the batttlefield, and the soldiers' view from the ground. At the same time, he places these military actions in the larger political context of the fall of 1864. With the election looming, neither side could afford a defeat at Richmond or Petersburg. Nevertheless, Grant and Lee were willing to take significant risks to seek great advantage. These military events set the groundwork for operations that would close the war in Virginia several months later."
Hampton Newsome is an attorney from Arlington, VA and an editor of Civil War Talks.
Bending Toward Justice -- The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy by Gary May, BasicBooks '13, stated First Printing. $28.99, 314 pages, ASIN #0465018467. Index, notes, no bibliography, b&w images sprinkled through text.
From the dust jacket:
"When the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870 granted African Americans the right to vote, it seemed as if a new era of political equality was at hand. Before long, however, white segregationists across the South counterattacked, driving their black countrymen from the polls through a combination of sheer terror and insidious devices such as complex literacy tests and expensive poll taxes. Most African Americans would remain voiceless for nearly a century more, citizens in name only until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act secured their access to the ballot.
"In Bending Toward Justice, celebrated historian Gary May describes how black voters overcame centuries of bigotry to secure and preserve one of their most important rights as American citizens. The struggle that culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act was long and torturous, and only succeeded because of the courageous work of local freedom fighters and national civil rights leaders -- as well as, ironically, the opposition of Southern segregationists and law enforcement officials, who won public sympathy for the voting rights movement by brutally attacking peaceful demonstrators.
"But while the Voting Rights Act represented an unqualified victory over such forces of hate, May explains that its achievements remain in jeopardy. Many argue that the 2008 election of President Barack Obama rendered the Act obsolete, yet recent years have seen renewed efforts to curb voting rights and deny minorities the Act's hard-won protections. Legal challenges to key sections of the Act may soon lead the Supreme Court to declare those protections unconstitutional."
Author Gary May is a professor of history at the University of Delaware and author of four previous books. He lives in Newark, DE.