Obscurity Knocks

Earnest, empathetic, industrious, unpretentious, gay Virgo in Milwaukee with a great life, amazing friends, and a wonderful family.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School

I read Carlotta Walls LaNier's book, "A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School." LaNier is one of the members of the Little Rock Nine, the African American teenagers who courageously integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The Little Rock Nine played a vital part in the civil rights movement in the United States. LaNier was the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, and she poignantly recounts the prejudice, hate, torment, and fear of September 1957 when Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus used the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the black teenagers from attending school. After three weeks of being denied admittance by segregationists and the power structure of Arkansas, President Eisenhower eventually sent in the U.S. Army 101st Airborne to integrate the school and to enforce the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in "Brown v. Board of Education." Even with the protection of the Army, LaNier and her African American classmates suffered prejudice, hate, abuse, and torment from their white classmates. LaNier's home was bombed during her final semester of high school. To make that terrible act even worse, LaNier's father was considered a suspect in the bombing of his own home by white authorities in Little Rock, and an African American friend of LaNaier's served 18 months in jail for the crime even though there is absolutely no evidence that he was involved. It is likely that white racists were responsible for the bombing, but none were ever charged. LaNier's book is a fascinating first-hand account of an important chapter in United States history. Unfortunately, too few Americans are aware of the prophetic, courageous, and important contributions that the Little Rock Nine made to our society. Grade: 9.

I had the opportunity to meet Ms. LaNier earlier this week when she and other members of the Little Rock Nine visited my Alma Mater, Marquette University, to receive the Pere Marquette Discovery Award. It was fascinating to hear Ms. LaNier and the other members of the Little Rock Nine recount their story. They are true giants in American history. I was fortunate to have Ms. LaNier sign my copy of her book. It was a true honor to meet her and the other members of the Little Rock Nine. A moment that I will always remember.

The Lioness Roared: The Problems of Female Rule in English History

Another book I read recently was "The Lioness Roared: The Problems of Female Rule in English History" by Charles Beem. Beem assesses female rulers throughout English history and one of his main arguments is that queens regnant are female kings, a premise that I definitely agree with. He uses the Empress Matilda from the 12th century, Mary I, and Anne as his primary examples. He also briefly discusses Victoria in relation to the Bedchamber crisis, but doesn't go into great detail for Victoria. I found the book well-researched and mostly interesting. However, my primary complaint is that he almost ignores the women who is arguably the best monarch in English history, Elizabeth I. Beem briefly mentions Elizabeth I in the introduction, but it's almost like he's forgotten that Elizabeth I set the standard for female monarchs. I think his reason was that Elizabeth I never married so her situation was different then Matilda, Mary I, Anne, and Victoria. Yet Elizabeth's example clearly informed the reigns of Mary II, Anne, and Victoria. Overall grade: 6. This is only for people who have an intense interest in the history of the British monarchy.

The Warden

My friend Anne suggested that I read "The Warden" by Anthony Trollope. "The Warden" is the first volume in a series of novels about Barchester, a fictional cathedral town in England. I had never read anything by Trollope before, and I learned that he does an outstanding job of creating vivid and rich characters. In particular, the Bishop, Archdeacon Grantly, and Mr. Harding (The Warden) are very well-created characters. The plot was interesting, although not as relevant today as it was in Victorian times. An entertaining read and better than some of the drivel I've read in the past year (i.e., Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol."). Grade: 8.