Touched with Fire: Morris B. Abram and the Battle Against Racial and Religious Discrimination

Potomac. Dec. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9781640120969. $34.95. BIOG
Though perhaps less known today than other civil rights lawyers of his era, Morris B. Abram (1918–2000) was a significant figure during the 1950s and 1960s. In this first biography of Abram, former vice president at the National Endowment for Democracy Lowe portrays his subject as an outsider from rural Georgia who rose to became a skilled lawyer yearning for a political career. After serving in World War II, Abram held a number of high-level positions, including leading the American Jewish Committee and counseling the Peace Corps during the Kennedy administration. His brief, frustrating presidency of Brandeis University took place when the civil rights movement split into radical and moderate factions, as did the Democratic Party. Lowe explains how these events pushed Abram and other former lifelong Democrats into supporting Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, and further considers Abram’s evolving political views, from urging the desegregation of schools in the 1950s to opposing affirmative action and busing in the 1980s.
VERDICT This sympathetic, well-crafted account of a talented lawyer with political ambition will appeal primarily to political scientists, historians, and Jewish studies majors.
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