Book Review: Trouble in Mind by Leon F. Litwack

Book Review

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This is a book review on Trouble in Mind by Leon F. Litwack. The book is divided into thematic chapters, with titles such as “Baptism” and “Lessons,” that describe how blacks were impeded in every aspect of daily life, including education and finances.

The book is divided into thematic chapters, with titles such as “Baptism” and “Lessons,” that describe how blacks were impeded in every aspect of daily life, including education, finances, housing and transportation. Litwick details how the White South used racial segregation, manipulation of the judicial system, violence, and intimidation to control blacks and “remind them of their inferiority” (Gatewood, 1). However, he contrasts this somber theme with stories about how blacks “coped with poverty and repression, found solace in their own institutions and managed to preserve their humanity and dignity through religion, work, music and humor” (Amazon, 4).

As book reviewer Willard B. Gatewood proclaims in the African American Review:

No other historian has presented such a comprehensive and compelling account of the relentless humiliation and degradation experienced by black Southerners in the age of Jim Crow or so graphically underscored the contradictions inherent in the thought and actions of white racists.

A review in the African American Male Research Journal stated:

If one were to select a single book that could, standing on its own, vividly depict the daily social, political, and economic quandaries black Americans found themselves in following the fall of slavery in the South, one would be hard-pressed to find a better one than Leon Litwack’s Trouble in Mind.

The same journal further writes that “its 599 pages would provide adequate documentation for a case for reparations based on the Reconstruction, post-Reconstruction, and Jim Crow periods alone.”

Many critics have called Litwick’s style “engaging” as well as sensitive and skillful in his graphic portrayal of violent public lynchings and immoral legal force (Gatewood, 1). Barry Goldberg in New Politics describes the book as an “ambitious work” and that it takes “scholarly erudition and purpose to attempt such a book (Goldberg, 2).

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