Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reflections on Projects for Black History Month

For the last two days of Black History Month, I was planning to blog about the chapter on civil rights in Joan Hoff's Nixon Reconsidered. But I changed my mind on that, for a variety of reasons. For one, the chapter discusses African-American civil rights and also feminism, and I didn't want to go off course more than I already have (since my blogging through Dean Kotlowski's Nixon's Civil Rights ended up discussing Native American and feminist issues, which are not exactly relevant to Black History Month). Second, Hoff discusses African-American issues outside of her chapter on civil rights. There is a solid chance that I will one day read Hoff's entire book and blog through it, but I won't be reading and blogging about any of it for the last two days of Black History Month.

Overall, I'm glad that I read and blogged through Kotlowski's Nixon's Civil Rights this month. I first saw the book at a public library a few years ago, but I did not have the time to read it then, since I was trying to concentrate on preparing for my comprehensive exams, and I already had enough books on my plate. I was contemplating the possibility of reading and blogging about it during February, 2011, but I decided instead to read and blog about W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. During earlier Black History Months, I was curious about the disagreement between those two African-American leaders, especially because it was often discussed in Roots: The Next Generation, which I watched for several Black History Months. I also noticed that many African-American conservatives gravitated towards Booker T. Washington, whereas some African-American liberals preferred Du Bois (and this characterization is far from absolute). I figured that I should read what these figures themselves had to say, before I read about Richard Nixon's civil rights policies.

How did Kotlowski's book compare with my expectations? When I first saw the book in the library, I did not know if it would be enthralling or dry. It turned out to be both. I think that the book was enthralling when it discussed the complexity of Nixon----how his rhetoric and personal attitudes were regressive and conservative, and yet many of his policies were progressive. It was also enthralling when it discussed the personal reasons that Nixon had for opposing racism, as well as how Nixon boldly stood up to Southern states. But, ironically, the book was also dry because of Nixon's complexity, for it was hard to admire fully a President who waffled all over the place before he could arrive at a position, plus some of the discussion of policy was dry. But the dryness is a huge part of why the book is a valuable resource, for a mark of solid research is that it acknowledges complexity and gets into detail, while meticulously documenting the details. It's good when a piece of non-fiction can have enthralling novelistic elements, and Kotlowski's book did, to a certain extent. But, in other areas, it did not because it's ultimately not a novel, but a work of research.

I'm not sure what I'll blog about tomorrow, the last day of Black History Month (since February 2012 has 29 days). We'll see, though. Stay tuned!

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