Civil Rights Journalism, Of Sorts

Speaking of Ilan Stavans, here is an essay he wrote for this weekend’s San Francisco Chronicle, in which he wonders why, in a 1,000-page, two-volume work on civil rights in America, there is no mention of Latinos–not even César Chávez.

The set first appeared in 2003, and reviews in the New York Times, the New Yorker, even The Chronicle failed to point out the omission. The anthology, which covers events from 1941 to 1973, showcases “eyewitness accounts of over 150 writers [offering] a panoramic perspective on the struggle to bring an end to segregation in the United States.” The authors range from John Steinbeck to Murray Kempton and James Baldwin, from Joan Didion and Howard Zinn to Alice Walker. It includes Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” accounts on busing, attacks on President Dwight Eisenhower and the effectiveness of sit-in movements. The advisory board responsible for the books is composed of a senior editor of the Martin Luther King Jr. papers, a distinguished faculty member at Emory University, the chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and a professor at Indiana University. In other words, a conscientious bunch.

Conscientious, but amnesic.

Read it all here. And then weep.