*Starred Review* This outstanding work features a mixture of primary source material with introductory essays outlining each president’s views on blacks in America. The preface states the authors “have emphasized documents that illuminate the thinking and attitudes that guided presidents in their dealings with African Americans. But we have also sought as much as possible . . . to include the voices of African Americans themselves.” The work is arranged in chronological order, with each chapter covering a president. The latest document included is an interview with President Obama on Good Morning America dated July 23, 2010. Chapters open with an introductory essay referring to each document within the chapter. These essays—replete with footnotes—serve as excellent resources for further research. Each chapter also has a concluding bibliography. Various sidebars (such as “The President’s Views of Race” in the chapter on Andrew Johnson) offer additional information accompanied by notes and/or a bibliography. It should be noted that the documents chosen in each chapter do not necessarily correspond to the administration of each president. In John Quincy Adams’ chapter, for example, all of the documents fall outside of Adams’ term, and the authors state in the essay that “he was surprisingly silent on the slavery issue as president.” Generally, each chapter consists of four or five key documents, and each administration is treated equally in that regard. The chapters on Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson, for example, are no longer than any others, with most chapters falling in the 10- to 13-page range. The fact that there are documents covering every presidential administration is noteworthy. One does not ordinarily consider William McKinley or William Howard Taft when thinking of issues dealing with black Americans, but the authors have included fascinating source material for both. The work serves to highlight events that were significant in their day but unheard of today by many readers. One can clearly see how the successive Republican presidencies of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover turned American blacks from the Republican “party of Lincoln” to the Democratic party of Franklin Roosevelt. With the prevalence of primary source material on the Internet, any collection of such documents in book form is ultimately dependent upon its editorial content, and this volume rises to the occasion. This well-edited, well-written work belongs on the shelves of all libraries. Though the price of this 504-page, single-volume reference will give some smaller libraries pause, it will ultimately be worth it, given its unique coverage. --Ken Black
About the Author
Stephen A. Jones is an assistant professor of history at Central Michigan University. He was a reporter and copy editor for the Associated Press, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Sunday Journal, and Ypsilanti Press before becoming a full-time educator. Eric Freedman is a Pulitzer Prize winner, assistant professor of journalism at Michigan State University, and a former legislative and press aide to U.S. Representative Charles B. Rangel. He has more than 25 years of experience covering politics and public affairs for newspapers, magazines, and wire services.