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Black Maverick: T. R. M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power (New Black Studies Series) Hardcover – April 8, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0252034206 ISBN-10: 0252034201 Edition: 1st Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: New Black Studies Series
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (April 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252034201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252034206
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,230,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[A] captivating and vividly detailed new biography . . . . With Black Maverick, T.R.M. Howard’s achievements have finally received the attention they deserve."--Reason

"[Howard] was in fact one of the most effective black civil rights leaders of his generation and a key figure in bringing civil rights to Mississippi and empowering black voters in Chicago.”--Harper's Online

 "An admirable biography of this flamboyant and sometimes reckless personality. . . . Recommended."--Choice

"Well researched, clearly written, and judiciously argued."--The Journal of American History

Book Description

In whatever role he chose--civil rights leader, wealthy entrepreneur, or unconventional surgeon--Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard (1908-76) was always close to controversy. One of the leading renaissance men of twentieth century black history, Howard successfully organized a grassroots boycott against Jim Crow in the 1950s. Well known for his benevolence, fun-loving lifestyle, and fabulous parties attended by such celebrities as Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, he could also be difficult to work with when he let his boundless ego get the best of him. A trained medical doctor, he kept the secrets of the white elite, and although married to one woman for forty years, he had many personal peccadilloes. But T. R. M. Howard's impressive accomplishments and abilities vastly outshone his personal flaws and foibles. He was a dynamic civil rights pioneer and promoter of self-help and business enterprise among blacks.

With this remarkable biography, David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito secure Howard's rightful place in African American history. Drawing from dozens of interviews with Howard's friends and contemporaries, as well as FBI files, court documents, and private papers, the authors present a fittingly vibrant portrait of a complicated leader, iconoclastic businessman, and tireless activist.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By JB on June 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I've been waiting for two books to recover lost or misremembered figures in black history: The first is Norrell's revisionist biography of Booker T. Washington (a "must read"), _Up from History_.

The second must-read in black history is this book by David Beito. A true maverick, TRM Howard combined elements of Booker T. Washingon, DuBois, and was also an ardent advocate of the "right to bear arms" (an understatement -- they not only protected blacks from vicious whites in the South but Howard also went on safaris to kill big game!).

From a small town in Western Kentucky, where he was mentored by a white man, to becoming a doctor and operating in the all-black Mounds Bayou, then on to Chicago -- Howard was the center of most major civil rights events. For example, he was the one who publicized Emmet Till's lynching.

TRM Howard was a "one of a kind" and this book deserves the attention it is receiving (I saw it on C-Span; check out the video as well).

Two thumbs up!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Preston on June 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
At the turn of the century Booker T. Washington argued that the first step necessary in achieving equality for Blacks involved institution building. In a way the story of T.R.M. Howard is a vindication of that assertion. Howard's association with institutions such as The Knights of Tabor and the wealth created by his own business organizations proved essential in advancing the cause of civil rights.

With Black Maverick: "T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power" David and Linda Royster Beito have done much to remedy the historical neglect of this giant of the early Civil Rights Movement. Their well written and well researched biography reveals the vital role Howard played in the events surrounding the death of Emmett Till, an incident many consider a crucial galvanizing point in the modern drive for black equality. They also describe the importance of Howard's Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) as the largest body, at the time, working for civil rights in Mississippi.

Despite his essential efforts in the early organizing and publicizing of the movement as well as his role as mentor to such people as Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer and Jesse Jackson Howard is rarely mentioned in the pantheon of Civil rights heroes. His primary identity as an entrepreneur and his later association with the Republican Party do not fit most historians' idea of a civil rights leader and so he has been discounted. However, anyone who wishes to have a complete knowledge of the struggle for equality in our history needs to read this excellent book.

Keith Halderman
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Zebulun on August 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The story of T.R.M. Howard sheds light on many issues neglected by historians. Entrepreneurship and mutual aid played large roles in African American economic and political progress in the years before the success of the civil rights movement. Yet these essential component of African American progress has been neglected by historians in favor, for example, of organizing attempts by outsiders, including certain left-wing CIO unions and the Communist Party.

Moreover, Howard's story reflects a time when the civil rights movement was a beacon of liberty in the oppressive Jim Crow South. The harassment and threats suffered by Howard remind us that the movement's original goal was to overthrow authoritarian regimes, in this case state and local governments, that denied liberty to their black citizens and collaborated with terrorist groups such as the KKK. Even--perhaps especially--the most successful, productive members of the African American community such as Howard were targeted by both government and private violence. Unfortunately, modern historians interpret the civil rights movement in large part as a struggle to get the government to do something for African Americans. Howard is the type of hero who reminds readers that eternal vigilance against oppressive government is the price of liberty.

Finally, Howard's story reminds readers that property rights and entrepreneurial liberty are an essential component of liberty. Without his substantial economic base, Howard could never have withstood attempts to silence him. Even the most repressive governments for African Americans, such as Mississippi, allowed some room for civil society, including the ability to acquire property and to form religious and charitable institutions. From these institutions of civil society arose leaders such as Howard, who collectively eventually proved to be Jim Crow=s undoing.
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