This work examines the efforts of our diverse nation to secure civil rights for its entire people including African Americans, Native Americans, Chicanos, women, Asian Americans, workers, gays and lesbians, children, seniors and numerous others. Covering the period from 1865 to 2000, the set features more than 700 entries on civil rights and other organizations; political and social movements; legislation and government programs; court cases; overall concepts; cultural and educational institutions; as well as, film, literature, music and art.
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The goal of this alphabetically arranged reference compendium is "to make the latest scholarship on the subject available to a wide audience in a highly accessible format." Based on the assumption that "both civil rights and civil rights struggles are basic to the ongoing American experiment," the encyclopedia takes a long-term perspective that examines the civil rights movement from the formative period of 1790 to 1865 to the present. Although the bulk of the approximately 800 articles deals with the African American struggle for civil rights, a significant portion treats the struggles of other people of color, women, lesbians and gays, immigrants, and the disabled. Examples of entries include American Indian Movement, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Brown v. Board of Education, Civil liberties, Lynching, Million Man March, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and Victim's rights. There are also entries for significant individuals and for each U.S. state.
The signed articles, written by college and university professors, consultants, and subject experts, are clearly written and accessible, with cross-references denoted in the body of the articles by small capitals. There is no cumulative bibliography, but each entry ends with a bibliography listing one to ten related print works. Balance is appropriate, with broad movements, historical periods, prominent persons, or general topics (e.g., Film) receiving several pages, while less extensive or significant topics are treated in a column or so. Articles are complemented by clear black-and-white photographs and period reproductions, and the clean typeface and good use of white space gives the work an approachable look. The index is thorough and accurate, showing the page numbers of main articles in boldface, photographs in italics, and appearances of the topic in other articles in plain type. The list of articles that opens the book, though giving an overview of the contents, does not list page numbers, thus limiting its utility.
M. E. Sharpe's Encyclopedia of Civil Rights in America [RBB F 15 98] covers the same turf in three volumes and fewer articles but with less emphasis on the African American civil rights movement. It gives more coverage to civil rights as they impact women, other cultural and ethnic minorities, and lesbians and gays, and it also includes a listing of relevant court cases, a chronology, and a subject bibliography. Given the slightly different treatments and breadth of coverage, the two works can be regarded as complementary. High-school, college, and university students will be well served with either work, though those looking for an emphasis on the African American civil rights movement in the South may prefer Civil Rights in the United States.
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Martin (history, Univ. of California) and Sullivan (W.E.B. DuBois Inst., Harvard) have compiled a massive encyclopedia featuring 730 entries on civil rights in America. Among the 332 contributors are such major scholars as Gerald Early, Frances Fox Pliven, Robin Kelley, and Kermit Hall, as well as a number of less well-known students of this topic. The editors have conceived their project broadly by transcending the traditional focus on African Americans. Indeed, they include entries on "other people of color as well as other marginalized groups such as women, lesbians and gays, immigrants and the 'differently abled.' " Although most of the entries are well chosen and carefully written, as with any project of this nature, there are strange anomalies. Why, for example, do the editors devote one and a half pages to Chicano activist "Corky" Gonzales and a scant half-page to Frederick Douglass? And does every state in the union need a separate entry? Unaccountably, major sports figures like Joe Louis and Jesse Owens do not merit individual entries despite their major if indirect role in providing models for African Americans in the 1930s and 1940s (and despite each defeating German athletes on the world stage at the height of the racist Nazi era). These problems aside, this is a very important reference work because of its enormous reach; it should be in all sizable academic and public libraries.DAnthony O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN
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