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Ralph Emerson McGill
Leonard Ray Teel
University of Tennessee Press, 2001

A compassionate, complicated and contradictory personage, Ralph Waldo Emerson McGill was born in 1898 in the tiny east Tennessee town of Soddy—part of an area later submerged by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Reporter, editor, publisher, foreign correspondent, goodwill ambassador, widely syndicated columnist, chronic boozer and political agitator, McGill was the essential newspaperman. From his decades-held desk at the Atlanta Constitution, McGill shunned the often-ineffective role of the "objective journalist." Instead, he was guided by the facts as he saw them and his own sense of right and wrong.

Regarded as an authority on civil rights and Southern affairs, McGill advised Presidents Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson on both domestic and international matters and cemented close alliances with such diverse figures as J. Edgar Hoover and Martin Luther King, Jr. A champion of equal rights for blacks, he was an adamant integrationist in the 1940s and 1950s—a time when respectable society didn't discuss the topic in public.

In an epoch of Klan power, mob rule, lynchings and dynamite, redneck terrorists habitually menaced McGill with threatening phone calls and (misspelled) hate mail, pummeled his house with rubbish and rocks, smashed his mailbox and shattered his windows with buckshot. Old conservative demagogues dubbed him "Red Ralph." Yet, in his old age, this "nigger-loving pinko" woke to find both white and black radicals ridiculing his stubborn support of the Vietnam War and heckling him as a fossil from the Old South.

McGill was a tireless humanist and an immensely prolific workhorse who labored constantly despite illness. He was consulting an educator about the benefits of a bi-racial busing project when he collapsed from heart failure and died hours later.

Leonard Ray Teel, once an Atlanta Constitution reporter himself, examines McGill’s life and career with precision and perspective, noting McGill’s moral drive and physical excesses. Anecdotes abound: McGill drinking with Ernest Hemingway in a Paris bar or sipping goat’s milk and brandy with an elderly Carl Sandburg in North Carolina; how he bad-mouthed Chiang Kai-shek face to face on Chiang’s own turf in Chungking; how he first championed, then abandoned, Mao, Castro, Eisenhower and Bobby Kennedy.

In Ralph Emerson McGill, we see the malice and malevolence of McGill’s many foes, the adoration of his many fans and a chronicling of the maturation of the civil rights movement, which McGill had helped to nurture.—By Andrew Weems

The Next Christendom
Philip Jenkins
Oxford University Press, 2002


Within a few decades, Kinshasa, Buenos Aires, Addis Ababa and Manila will replace Rome, Athens, Paris, London and New York as the new focal points in the Church’s universality. While we live through a tumultuous and transformative segment of history, one of the most influential and incredible evolutions has gone almost unnoticed. Christianity is moving, or already has moved, to the global South. As such, Christianity itself is undergoing a significant makeover, creating a Christianity that barely resembles the Western perception of it. This shift will have an enormous impact on global politics. Why is the shift in Christian influence so important? The pivotal difference lies in what will take precedence—religious identification or allegiance to secular nation-states. Jenkins asserts religious identification. Secular movements such as communism, feminism and environmentalism have gotten the lion’s share of our attention, but the explosive southward expansion of Christianity in Africa, Asia and Latin America has barely registered on Western consciousness. The Next Christendom gives rise to the idea that has been largely ignored by both scholars and the media—Christianity is growing, not shrinking. He also depicts how the consequences of ignoring this change have the potential to end disastrously.

The move of Christian populations to the Southern Hemisphere has induced a variation on the face of Christianity most Westerners are not accustomed to. And who a Christian is will look very different. The Christian of the global South isn’t an old white man—she is a poor, brown-skinned woman. The metamorphosis which brands a Christianity Westerners are unfamiliar with is integral to understanding how religious identification could take precedence over allegiance to secular nation-states. The churches that have grown most rapidly in the global South are far more traditional, morally conservative, evangelical, poverty-stricken and apocalyptic than their Northern counterparts. Mysticism, Puritanism, belief in prophecy, faith healing, exorcism and dream visions—concepts which more liberal Western churches have traded in for progressive political and social concerns—are basic to the newer churches in the South. As Christianity grows in regions where Islam is also expected to increase—as recent conflicts in Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines reveal—we may see a return to the religious wars of the past, fought out with renewed intensity and high-tech weaponry.

The Strange Career Of Jim Crow
C. Vann Woodward
Oxford University Press, [1955] 2002


C. Vann Woodward, who died in 1999 at the age of 91, was America’s most eminent Southern historian, the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Mary Chestnut’s Civil War and a Bancroft Prize for The Origins of the New South. Now, to honor his long and truly distinguished career, Oxford University Press has published a special commemorative edition of Woodward’s most influential work, The Strange Career of Jim Crow.

The Strange Career of Jim Crow is one of the great works of Southern history. Indeed, the book actually helped shape that history. Published in 1955, a year after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ordered schools desegregated, Strange Career was cited so often to counter arguments for segregation that Martin Luther King, Jr. called it "the historical Bible of the civil rights movement." The book offers a clear and illuminating analysis of the history of Jim Crow laws, presenting evidence that segregation in the South dated only to the 1890s. Woodward convincingly shows that, even under slavery, the two races had not been divided as they were under the Jim Crow laws of the 1890s. In fact, during Reconstruction, there was considerable economic and political mixing of the races. The segregating of the races was a relative newcomer to the region.

Hailed as one of the top 100 nonfiction works of the twentieth century, The Strange Career of Jim Crow has sold almost a million copies and remains, in the words of David Herbert Donald, "a landmark in the history of American race relations."

Girls, Genes And Gamow
James D. Watson
Knopf, 2002

Immediately following the revolutionary discovery of the structure of DNA by James D. Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, the world of molecular biology was caught up in a gold rush. The goal: to uncover the secrets of life that the newly elucidated molecule promised to reveal. Genes, Girls and Gamow is James Watson’s report on the aftermath of the DNA breakthrough, picking up where his now-classic memoir, The Double Helix, left off.

Here are the collaborations and collisions of giants, not only of Watson and Crick themselves but also of countless others, including Linus Pauling (the greatest chemist of the day); Richard Feynman (the bongo-playing cynosure of Caltech); and, especially, George Gamow, the bear-like Russian physicist—and prankster—who, with Watson, founded the legendary RNA-Tie Club.

But Watson, at 25—already the winner of genetic research’s greatest jackpot—is obsessed with another goal as well: to find love, and a wife equal to his unexpected fame. As he and an international cast of roguish young colleagues do important research, they also compare notes and share complaints on the scarcity of eligible mates. And amid the feverish search for the role of the then still mysterious RNA molecule, Watson’s thoughts are seldom far from the supreme object of his desire, an enthralling Swarthmore coed who also happens to be the daughter of Harvard’s most eminent biologist.

Part scientific apprenticeship, part sentimental education, Genes, Girls and Gamow is a penetrating revelation of how great science is accomplished and a candid account of one man’s full range of ambitions.

The Demon And The Angel
Edward Hirsch
Harcourt, 2002

Be it painting, poetry or jazz, art is to be admired by its audience. But what actually goes into the process of creation? What are the often-warring forces that compel an artist to bring his vision into being? In The Demon and the Angel, poet Edward Hirsch navigates the elusive and wonderfully complex terrain of the imagination.

Exploring the source of artistic inspiration, Hirsch introduces the reader to "duende" or the devil, a concept that Federico Garcia Lorca coined in 1933 which refers to the dark and potent force that fuels the creative spirit. According to Hirsch, duende is a force that Billie Holiday had and was ruled by and that Marlon Brando possessed but squandered. Lawrence Olivier had duende, as did Miles Davis and Ernest Hemingway. In The Demon and the Angel, Hirsch taps into this force himself, explaining the widely different ways artists respond to the power and energy of the creative impulse.

Looking at a range of artistic endeavors—from painting and jazz music to literature and poetry—The Demon and the Angel gives an intriguing tour of the minds of artists and the creative process. Using duende (or the demon) and its opposing angel as guides, Hirsch illuminates the dark space of the imagination where all art is born while creating an inspiring work of art of his own in the process.