L. W. D.
Vol. 12, No. 5, 1990, p. 16
The Long Haul, an Autobiography by Myles Horton, with Judith Kohl and Herbert Kohl. (Doubleday, 1990. xvi, 245 pages.). Whitney M. Young, Jr. and the Struggle for Civil Rights, by Nancy J. Weiss. (Princeton University Press, 1990. xv, 286 pages.).
Whitney Young and Myles Horton represented the breadth of and variety within the civil rights movement. One was black, one white. One held the confidence of corporate and political leaders, one was avowedly radical and worked almost exclusively among the poor and dissidents. One believed in the efficacy of political processes, the other cared but little for policies that did not arise from the understanding of the people. Horton with the help of the Kohls sat down his own story before his death this year and Princeton historian Weiss tells Young’s. I knew and had some working relationship with both men, though I was not close to either. People who knew them will find little in these books to change or deepen their opinions of them. All will find the books useful additions to their knowledge of American reforms, in Horton’s case from the 1930s to the present, in Young’s tragically shorter and intenser period from the mid-1950s to his drowning in 1971. The books are, moreover, interestingly written.
If you want democratic society, wrote Horton, you have to act democratically. “If you want love and brotherhood, you’ve got to incorporate them as you go along, because you can’t just expect them to occur in the future without experiencing them before you get there.” Whitney Young, as I knew him, would believe and act on that rule as consistently as Horton, though, as Professor Weiss writes, he “spent his life making the needs and interests of black Americans comprehensible and compelling to the whites who had the power to do something about them.”–L.W.D.