African Americans and the Presidents: Politics and Policies from Washington to Trump

Greenwood. Apr. 2019. 318p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781440862113. $94; ebk. ISBN 9781440862120. REF
Brooks (humanities & social sciences, Kentucky State Univ.; coeditor, How the Obama Presidency Changed the Political Landscape) and Starks (public administration & policy, Walden Univ., MN) analyze the polices, programs, agendas, and moral positions U.S. presidents have taken in addressing the social, cultural, political, and legal concerns and rights of African Americans. The authors also explore African Americans’ views of each president in terms of their political support for specific causes and issues. Brooks and Starks argue that leaders do not take actions based on their own political and personal agendas but instead act in concert with the political and social climate. The work is organized into six eras: “Slavery,” “Civil War,” “Emancipation,” “Post-Reconstruction,” “Civil Rights,” and “Post–Civil Rights.” All 45 presidents are profiled, with information about their lives, careers, and policies, as well as primary resources such as personal writings, memoirs, and news articles. Not surprisingly, the most detailed chapters are on presidents who served during the civil rights movement (John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson) and the post–civil rights era (Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama). Articles are clearly and precisely written, with a lack of editorializing by the authors. The book is best suited for general readers but also serves as an excellent starting point for student projects, with further reading lists at the end of each presidential entry and an extensive bibliography.
VERDICT Certainly not the final word on the historical significance of presidents and their relationships with African Americans, this is an effective overview, with excellent supporting documentation.
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