Sunday, January 3, 2010

This Is Where I Came In by Gerald L. Early

This Is Where I Came In is made up of three essays about the black experience in the 1960s. Early first delivered these at the 2000 Abraham Lincoln Lectures at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Each essay focuses on a specific person, someone who left an indelible mark on American culture.

"Muhammad Ali as Third World Hero" is an analysis of the GOAT's international prestige, his views on the United States government, and his relationship with the religious and political leaders Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad. It is no surprise that the Nation of Islam wanted Muhammad Ali as a spokesperson--even if Elijah Muhammad was unimpressed with the young boxer. It was interesting to read about the ways in which Malcolm and the NOI courted Ali and, in turn, what he thought of them.

"Sammy Davis Jr., Establishment Revel" made me totally rethink my opinion of the legendary entertainer. One of the most unexpected revelations was his remarkable fund raising activities for the Civil Right Movement. Davis was able to parlay his Brat Pack connections into big-time contributions and fund raising events. Early describes Davis as a true pioneer, with a career that began in vaudeville and transitioned into television, music, and movies.

I had almost no prior knowledge of the subject of the essay "Cecil B. Moore and the Rise of Black Philadelphia, 1964-1968." Unlike the other essays, Early lends some personal insights from his time growing up in Philadelphia, and his thoughts on Moore, the controversial leader of the local NAACP.

Gearld Early is a good scholarly writer. By that, I mean that he his writing is scholarly and tempered without being uninteresting. This Is Where I Came In is a quality addition to the 1960s history cannon.

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