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The Unsteady March: The Rise and Decline of Racial Equality in America
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon March 21, 2000
I believe a measure of a great Historical work is one that acts as a catalyst for further inquiry. As I read "The Unsteady March" I noted other topical areas discussed which would keep me reading for several months.
This is not a dry textbook it is eminently readable. I am not suggesting this is a light read. I am saying the Authors did a remarkable job of conveying History, together with their own thesis, to create a book that should find a wide audience.
The book goes well beyond the primary premise that the progression of Civil Rights only occurs when the need for non-white assistance is needed, and for varying period of times thereafter. Examples would include the larger military conflicts this country has experienced.
What impressed me was that documentary sources were provided for the positions that the Authors espoused. There are nearly 60 pages of notes, which attest to the meticulous nature of their research.
The subject of Race is extremely complex, and unlike other works this book does not offer up stillborn utopian solutions. The reader is given a detailed walk through the history of the issue, often accompanied by riveting quotes from historical figures that will surprise, and often shock.
Another feature I found extremely useful were the occasional use of surveys that the Authors used sparingly but very effectively. The book also managed to utilize important statistical information without the obvious distortions that frequently contaminate such figures.
In the final section entitled "Shall We Overcome" the book is brought to a well thought out and organized review. This is then combined with an examination of current racial climates and suggestions on what actions may help to improve these continued disparities among the Races. However the suggestions are offered, reasoned, and justified, not pompously hurled down, from an ivory or otherwise constructed tower.
This is an extremely accessible book, that will serve as a reference work for me, and as mentioned, a catalyst for further reading.
Extremely well done, highly recommended.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2000
This survey of the rise and decline of racial inequality in America argues that progress in racial equality has occurred only in conjunction with large-scale wars. The Unsteady March redefines civil rights events and issues, examining the historical foundations which have made racial progress possible. An unsettling survey of some hitherto-undisclosed influences on racial equality's progress.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2001
About six months ago, Klinkner's book fell into my lap having been dropped off by my brother who knew me to be an avid reader. My initial thought was that this book was another attempt to recycle the old liberal ideas of the 60's. Liberalism, for all intents and purposes, has been discredited, relegated to the scrap heap of forgotten history-along with the Edsel, leisure suits, 8 tracks and E.S.T. Later that evening, I sat down to read the introduction. After completing the introduction, I wanted to call my brother to thank him for delivering such a find. It is imperative to read the introduction before tackling the main body of the book. Also, try not to read the book too quickly, it is better digested in small pieces. As a historical document, there is no more scholarly or analytical a treatise out there. It stablizes the argument in favor of reconsidering the issues surrounding the way we--as a country--have in the past and present continue to treat the progeny of former slaves. The issue is not reparations for the effects of slavery, but rather the institutional structures in place that perpetuate the superior/inferior relationship between Americans separated by the color of their skin. In short, if we could eliminate the current effects that became ingrained during the 300 or so years of slavery, we would gladly forego any compensation we may be arguably entitled to. This book is a must read for anyone grappling with the issues of equality-or inequality--in it's present transmuted form.
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on May 1, 2015
There is a reason this kind of stuff isn't taught in schools today; there's a reason Ben Affleck didn't want his family history of slave ownership revealed; there's a reason for folks having to remind you that "Black Lives Matter" and, most of all, there's a reason why some folks will do ANYTHING (including going against their own beneficial interests) to preserve the institution of racism in the United States. After reading this fantastic, amazingly intriguing book, you will understand the concept of racism and how it was (and still is) used to promote and maintain the legacy of so-called "white supremacy" not only in the "stereotypical South", but across the entire country. In my opinion, most people (regardless of color) KNOW that a racial hierarchy exists in this country, particularly among black and white people. Unfortunately, most people seem to take the "that's-just-how-things-are" approach while others are just in a full-blown state of denial when it comes to acknowledging the existence of white privilege. This book is a must read and should be required reading in every American high school.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2002
Civil Rights leaders supposedly described their achievements in these terms and thus give the authors the title for their book. Such footwork can only be described as THE UNSTEADY MARCH. Klinker and Smith highlight the periods of progress and retreat through a broad sweep of US history. Beginning with the era of slavery (1619-1860), chapter 1 titled "Bolted with the Lock of a Hundred Keys" obviously describes a period of zero progress. According to the authors there have only been three periods of progress and each can be identified by the presence of specific factors. The thrust of their argument throughout this book is that the special circumstances and the effort, energy, and enthusiasm associated with these factors has both a beneficial and deleterious impact on black progress. Beneficially these are not short-run periods of gain. Indeed the third era of progress beginning with WWII and covering the Cold War (inclusive of Vietnam) from 1941 to 1968 "framed an extraordinarily prolonged period" of gains.
It's not coincidental that this period included WWII, the Cold War, and Vietnam because progress has come only "in the wake of a large-scale war requiring extensive economic and military mobilization of African-Americans for success." This statement by the authors made me think about the message of AMERICAN PATRIOTS: "The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm". If gains by blacks is conditional on wars the treatment of blacks in those wars is a high cost to pay for progress as Gail Lumet Buckley shows in her book. Gaining support for these wars usually means invoking our inclusiveness, egalitarianism, and democratic ideals; elements which the authors identify as another precondition for progress. The third critical factor is that a political protest movement must emerge and be "willing and able to bring pressure upon national leaders to live up to that justificatory rhetoric by instituting domestic reforms."
Progress has been a continual dance of advances and retreats but in their penultimate chapter "Benign Neglect?" the authors express concern over the current climate of complacency. Rather than a threat from any direct action or program of retrenchment, acceptance of present trends is a far greater impediment to continued progress. Through a series of parallels with periods of increased segregation they make a compelling case for overturning the historical pattern and replacing it with a movement towards sustained economic justice and racial equality.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Highly interesting and useful book with a simple but effective history: put the whole history of civil rights struggle in one line, since the Revolutionary war. The result shows immediately the tiding of the struggle for racial equality, and the correlation of eras of advance with the periods of major war, the Revolutionary, Civil, and Second World Wars to be exact. Too often we see the efforts of abolitionists in the generation before the Civil War without seeing the similar history during the Revolutionary period, and then the falling away of advance into retrogression in the early nineteenth century. And then again after Reconstruction. The rise of the Civil Rights movement after the Second World War, next also to the need to repair the image of the American system in the Cold War, falls into place therefore as the next incremental advance in an undertow of resistance, backsliding and the Jim Crow curse. We seem to be, or have entered, another of the doldrum eras, and the prospect seems alarming, although each period of advance maintains some portion of its gains. At a period of neo-liberal machinations made in Texas we need hardly bother to wonder why affirmative action is under attack, etc...
One has to wonder, finally, at the botched legacy of the Constitutional era. It seems less than fully convincing all at once that the founders were unable to resist compromise. The results have been a horrendous series of obstructions.
As the dot.gov goes into action in Iraq, it is worth wondering if they are qualified. American history shows one way to blow it. Vigilance.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2002
When I read this book, I was surprised to find a almost completely accurate depiction of the African-American experience and race relations. Klikner and Smith validate the claim of Black separatist groups such as the Nation of Islam that the Black man is considered a citizen during wartime and tax time. Their analyzing of race relations during The American Revolution, The Civil War, World War II, and The Cold War show that the status of African-Americans was changed by each war. However the nation took 2 steps back when the attitudes of the White majority changed during hard economic times and developed a reluctance to expand the social revolution that was spurred by the war. The book offers a challenge to all who desire racial and economic equality to continue a unfinished social revolution.
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on March 15, 2015
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