If emancipation sparked "a new birth of freedom" in Lincoln's America, why was it necessary to march in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s America? In this new book, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. seeks to answer that question in a history that moves from the Reconstruction Era to the "nadir" of the African-American experience under Jim Crow, through to World War I and the Harlem Renaissance.
Gates’s book covers territory well known to scholars and Civil War buffs ... For those wishing to know more about this dismal story of racial hysteria in places as high as Woodrow Wilson’s White House and as low as the blackface minstrel show, Stony the Road is excellent one-stop shopping. With a main text of about 250 pages, Gates offers a compressed, yet surprisingly comprehensive narrative sweep ... Gates is at his most fluent in defining the newer Negro as a feature of the Harlem Renaissance powered by Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson and other key figures of the African American creative pantheon ... the author is a painstakingly honest broker in describing the combat among black opinion leaders over the roles of class, skin color, education and social adaptation vs. rebellion in the African American saga ... Analytically, this is a lively, consistently challenging book. I was struck by a sweeping criticism Gates offers in discussing the Harlem Renaissance.
... an indispensable guide to the making of our times ... For in our current politics we recognize African-American history — the spot under our country’s rug where the terrorism and injustices of white supremacy are habitually swept. Stony the Road lifts the rug ... As essential history for our times, Stony the Road does a kind of cultural work that is only now becoming widespread in the United States but that Germans have been undertaking for decades. The German word for this effort is Vergangenheitsbewältigung — coming to terms with the past — and it carries connotations of a painful history that citizens would rather not confront but that must be confronted in order not to be repeated. Vergangenheitsbewältigung is essential for understanding the American past as a whole.
...brilliant ... Gates' book is a fascinating social and intellectual history of the time between Reconstruction and the rise of the Jim Crow period of American history. It's an absorbing and necessary look at an era in which the hard-fought gains of African-Americans were rolled back by embittered Southern whites — an era that, in some ways, has never really ended ... It will come as no surprise to anyone who's familiar with Gates' impressive body of work that Stony the Road is every bit as fascinating as the author's previous books. It's a work of history, but a living one ... Gates' analysis is predictably brilliant, but he's also just a joy to read. He writes in long sentences that don't ramble, but rather draw readers in and keep them engaged; his gift at crafting elegant prose serves to complement the persuasive arguments he makes in his book.