Into the bright sunshine Young Hubert Humphrey and the fight for civil rights

Samuel G. Freedman

Book - 2023

"Hubert Humphrey, a fallen hero and a dying man, rose on rickety legs to approach the podium of the Philadelphia Convention Hall, his pulpit for the commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania. He clutched a sheaf of paper with his speech for the occasion, typed and double-spaced by an assistant from his extemporaneous dictation, and then marked up in pencil by Humphrey himself. A note on the first page, circled to draw particular attention, read simply, "30 years ago - Here...." In this place, at that time, twenty-nine years earlier to be precise, he had made history. From the dais now, Humphrey beheld five thousand impending graduates, an ebony sea of gowns and mortarboards, broken by one iconoclast in a homemade crown, two in ribboned bonnets, and another whose headgear bore the masking-tape message HI MA PA. In the horseshoe curve of the arena's double balcony loomed eight thousand parents and siblings, children, and friends. Wearing shirtsleeves and cotton shifts amid the stale heat, they looked like pale confetti from where Humphrey stood, and their flash cameras flickered away, a constellation of pinpricks"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor New Shelf 973.923/Freedman (NEW SHELF) Due Oct 15, 2023
Pivotal moments in American history.
New York, NY : Oxford University Press [2023]
Physical Description
xv, 488 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Samuel G. Freedman (author)
  • "30 years ago
  • here"
  • Beyond the meridian
  • "Horse-high, hog-tight, bull-strong"
  • A path out of the dust
  • The silken curtain and the silver shirt
  • The Jim Crow car
  • Vessel and voice
  • "We must set the example"
  • "We are looking in the mirror"
  • The coming confrontation
  • Inside agitator.
Review by Booklist Review

Prize-winning journalist Freedman follows the arc of Hubert Humphrey's life and those of the social and political forces that shaped him, to July 14, 1948, when Humphrey, then the 37-year-old mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, boldly exhorted the Democratic presidential convention in Philadelphia to adopt a stronger civil-rights plank in the party's campaign platform, and the delegates did so. The title of Freedman's focused portrait is taken from Humphrey's convention speech, in which he called for Democrats to "walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights." Freedman enlarges the reader's understanding of Humphrey while also offering vivid, rich, and unsettling details about politics, society, racism, and antisemitism in mid-twentieth-century America. Freedman opens and closes the book with vignettes about Humphrey's later life, including his accomplishments as a U.S. senator, the criticism he endured for supporting the Vietnam war, his campaign against Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential election after a tumultuous nominating convention in Chicago that catalyzed riots and police brutality, and his struggle with cancer. An illuminating look at an important yet overlooked facet of American history.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Columbia journalism professor Freedman (Breaking the Line) reexamines the legacy of liberal politician Hubert Humphrey (1911--1978) in this comprehensive account. While Humphrey is best remembered for his tenure as Lyndon Johnson's vice president and his unsuccessful bid for the White House in 1968, Freedman argues that he played a highly consequential role in the civil rights movement. During the contentious 1948 Democratic National Convention, Humphrey's passionate endorsement of a robust civil rights platform (in the face of vigorous opposition by President Truman and Southern Democrats) set the stage, according to Freedman, for later victories such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act (which Humphrey himself helped floor-manage as a senator). Alongside a granular account of the behind-the-scenes dynamics of the convention, Freedman takes a deep dive into his subject's personal life, with a focus on his early experiences of racism and antisemitism. Elected mayor of Minneapolis while in his 30s, Humphrey helped make the city one of the only in the nation "where a wronged job applicant could count on the government as an ally." In the process, he became so hated by the racist right that an attempt was made on his life--and also popular enough to win a U.S. Senate seat in 1948. Freedman is no hagiographer, and notes Humphrey's missteps, especially while serving as vice president, and his willingness to engage in dirty politics. The result is candid political biography. (July)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Kirkus Book Review

A vigorous history of Hubert Humphrey's many contributions to liberal politics, especially with respect to civil rights. As Columbia journalism professor Freedman notes, Humphrey's star has long been descending, and few remember him today. Humphrey himself remarked that the cause was simple: "I think the misjudgment of Vietnam." Despite misgivings, Humphrey supported Lyndon Johnson's conduct of the war, and he threw his lot in with Johnson's efforts to secure civil rights--and especially voting rights--for Black Americans and other minority members. In this welcome rehabilitation, the author clearly shows how Humphrey had long been a strong advocate of civil rights, and as a graduate student in Louisiana, the Minnesotan had ample opportunity to study the corrosive effects of racism firsthand. As mayor of Minneapolis, he pushed through reforms to end anti-Black and anti-Jewish covenants and other mechanisms of discrimination. At the 1948 Democratic convention, he argued for a civil rights platform in the face of a party dominated by Southern Democrats. Moreover, though he fought that faction, Humphrey observed that no part of the country was immune to racism, and unlike many others, "he recognized the Northern brand of Jim Crow." Humphrey delivered a smashing victory to Harry Truman that, by securing more than 75% of the Black vote, meant that the Democrats could win nationally without the Southern electorate. The Dixiecrats repaid the favor by stalling bills that Humphrey, a freshman in the Senate, had introduced to outlaw lynching and create a Civil Rights Commission. He made good on his own views by hiring the first Black American to serve on a senatorial staff. Still, even after decades in politics, when Humphrey returned to the Senate following his time as vice president, his full employment bill "had been rattling around Congress for three years already and was still stuck in committee," precisely because Humphrey was so weakened politically. A strong step in rehabilitating Humphrey's image as a practical politician and civil rights activist. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.