Friday, September 3, 2010

Hammer and Hoe by Robin D.G. Kelley~★★★★

Author: Robin D.G. Kelley
Title: Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression 
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Release Date: November 16th, 1990
Genre: Non-Fiction, History

Book Cover: "Hammer and Hoe documents the efforts of the Alabama Communist Party and its allies to secure racial, economic, and political reforms. Sensitive to the complexities of gender, race, culture, and class without compromising the political narrative, Robin Kelley here illuminates one of the most unique and least understood radical movements in American history. Robin D.G. Kelley is associate professor of history and Afro-American studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor."

Taryn's Review: I know some of you might be scratching your heads thinking, "Why in the world did she pick this?" Well, this semester is my first semester of graduate school! I am beginning my master's degree for history and I am very excited. So for the duration of the time I'm in school, you will be seeing some history books pop up on here. I understand that these kinds of books don't appeal to the masses, but you never know what might grab your attention. Who knows, you might pick up one of these and fall in love! That might be wishful thinking, but I hope a few of the books I have to read for school might inspire someone to try a new genre they might not have delved into before.

This book did what it set out to do very, very well. Kelley did a great job combining many aspects into a readable, well thought-out book. The African-American history in the Communist Party was not something I was familiar with, but the sources Kelley used show a people in Alabama who were ready for a change and tried make it happen. The violence the blacks suffered at the hand of the whites was astonishing and sickening. They were attacked because of their beliefs and were even falsely accused of crimes; the accusations set them up to be attacked mob-style and the attacks normally didn't end until the victim was dead or appeared to be dead.

Often I think that people believe history jumped from Reconstruction to Civil Rights Movements for African-Americans, but I loved that Kelley highlighted a group of people in the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s who were striving for the things the Civil Rights Movement ultimately brought to national attention. The protests, the marches, the meetings, and the hope that blacks in the Communist Party in Alabama had was fantastic. 

I really enjoyed the rich political history that Kelley brought forth. I especially loved the interviews, but really missed having a strong female African-American voice throughout the book to complement the words of Hosea Hudson, James Jackson, Lemon Johnson, and others. If you have an interest in African-American history, Alabama history, or Communist Party history, give this book a try. You might surprise yourself!