Current Reading - May 2021
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Finished an interesting A. G. Spalding and the Rise of Baseball: The Promise of American Sport by Peter Levine. Spalding was one of those over-achiever types, one of the best pitchers in the game, team manager and owner, sporting goods entrepreneur and one of the best known Americans of his time. The book is well written and moves along nicely.
Finished a fascinating Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle: The Little Big Horn Reexamined by Richard A. Fox. A participant in a 1980s archeological survey of the Custer (later Little Bighorn) Battlefield National Monument, Fox wrote this book a decade later to examine the results of the survey, the existing historiography of the battle and other information to theorize what may have actually happened on that day in 1876.
I finished Up from Slavery the famous memoir by Booker T. Washington. On the national stage, Washington was one of the most famous African Americans of his time. As the title tells us, he was born enslaved on a Virginia plantation in 1858 or 1859 (he wasn't sure of the exact date or even year). Through force of will and an impressive work ethic, Washington earned his way into the Hammond Institute, a progressive school of both basic and higher learning for freedmen and their descendants. At age 25, he was recommended for and accepted the post of leader/principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University). When he got to Alabama to take over the school, it turned out there was no school and he had to build it from scratch. The story of this process constituted, for me, the most compelling section of the narrative. Afterwards, Washington's success building the Tuskegee Institute, and his impressive abilities as an orator, brought him an ever growing fame, both nationally and, eventually, internationally. I'm afraid Up from Slavery bogged down for me toward the end, as Washington begins relating the places he went to, the audiences he spoke to and the accolades he received. I can understand why these would have been important to him to include, perhaps to exemplify the ways in which it was possible for a Black man to attain such status and success, but it all became repetitive and impersonal for me. Nevertheless, this is an important book to read for anyone wishing to gain an overall understanding of Black history in America, although his ideas about race relations are somewhat controversial now. (He believed that Blacks as a group needed to gain practical skills and other individual success before working toward social equality, despite, and seemingly ignoring, the fact that White society as a whole was expressly intent upon violently supressing any such advances.) Overall, Washington is a person to admire.
I finished The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe's extremely engaging and detailed history of the Mercury Space Program. I'm not quite sure how/why I'd never read this before. Maybe it was my life-long aversion to reading best sellers, and this book was huge when it was first published in 1980. At any rate, I'm very glad I finally got to it.