Big thanks to Brenda of Queens, N.Y., for the smart, snappy and complimentary 5-star review of 30 Days a Black Man that she wrote for LibraryThing, the cataloging and social networking site for book lovers.
Brenda, aka “Bookish 59,” has read and reviewed hundreds of books. If they’re half as good as the she wrote about 30 Days …, she should be working at the NY Times Book Review. I can’t complain or challenge a single word or opinion:
Excellent book detailing Sprigle’s love of journalism, natural wit, the time and energy he expended in getting the truth of every story because he was inspired and determined to report the best, most accurate articles for the readers of Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette. He exposed Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black as a member of the KKK. Sprigle went undercover at Philadelphia’s Byberry Mental Institution as both patient and staff to see and experience the harsh reality first-hand. ’30 Days a Black Man’ focuses on Sprigle’s covert operation to see and experience the Jim Crow south as a black man. He gets guidance from Walter White, Executive Secretary of the NAACP (and William Henry Harrison’s great-grandson).
Sprigle has the good fortune to be driven and mentored by John Wesley Dobbs, one of the most distinguished, hard-working, and intelligent men of his time. He read, educated himself, and ensured his 6 daughters had the confidence and knowledge to attend and graduate Spelman College in Atlanta, forbidding them to attend segregated events. He did everything he could and then some to improve black lives politically, financially, educationally (yes, I made this word up because it should exist), etc. Of course, helping Sprigle was right up his alley. Dobbs introduces Sprigle to middle-class and poor blacks in the South to interview, as well as explaining how a black man or woman needed to behave to remain safe and alive. Sprigle learns much he didn’t know, and is personally affected and embarrassed by the pain, humiliation and fear whites have caused and perpetuated for too long onto their black employees and neighbors. Back in Pittsburgh he writes a stunning series of articles which generate good and bad letter responses. Based on this series he writes the book In the Land of Jim Crow.
30 Days a Black Man book is honest, lively, readable, and smart and an enthusiastic description of Ray Sprigle’s exciting life. He was unafraid of powerful people, extroverted and friendly, and uniquely qualified to take on difficult stories he knew needed public exposure. Steigerwald deftly weaves in the politicians, journalists, newspapers, and businesses who played large roles in U.S culture and history in the 40’s and 50’s so we can clearly understand the how and why of racism and the evils of the south’s Jim Crow, segregation, and the north’s ignorance and hypocrisy.