Into the Bright Sunshine: Young Hubert Humphrey and the Fight for Civil Rights

Oxford Univ. (Pivotal Moments in American History). Jul. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780197535196. $34.95. HIST
Former New York Times columnist Freedman (journalism, Columbia Univ.; Pigskin Isn’t Kosher) explores the pivotal civil rights speech that Hubert Humphrey (1911–78) gave in July 1948, at the Democratic National Convention. It commanded the party and Truman, its presidential candidate, to finally take action on civil rights in America. Born in South Dakota as the KKK grabbed hold of the community, Humphrey’s exposure to Black Americans was limited to a handful of interactions as a working teenager. He attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he witnessed racism and fierce antisemitism. Freedman’s exploration of Minneapolis’s social history is thorough and insightful, and he identifies the key players, discrimination, and legislation that hamper the community to this day. The Humphrey family’s downward financial trajectory is juxtaposed against this history, creating an understanding of socioeconomics within Hubert that solidifies as he completes his master’s degree in government in Louisiana. Readers will be able to assess how far society has (or hasn’t) come on civil rights in the United States, as the book’s content consistently points to Humphrey’s pivotal speech and its 75th anniversary this year.
VERDICT This book’s precise writing creates a memorable portrait of a successful chapter in Humphrey’s complicated career.
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