July 31, 2009

An Index Is Worth Several Thousand Words

Judging books by their cover isn’t advisable, but judging them by their index often is. I have used the tried and true tactic of “index hopping” more times than I can count while deciding if a book is worth my money and it has never failed me. For example if you are a looking for a decent read on our current financial mess and a quick glance at the index comes up with fewer than a half dozen references to the Federal Reserve, chances are the book in question is a waste of time. Sometimes ten seconds of pre-screening the text via the index can trump the 10-plus years of research that supposedly went into the book itself.

A great example of this is the new book by left-liberal Patricia Sullivan entitled “Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement.” As an unapologetic critic of the NAACP, its origins and its tactics, there is little in the organization’s history that I find worthwhile.

One of the few exceptions to this rule is the story of Robert Williams, a military veteran and former head of the organization’s Monroe, North Carolina chapter. During the late 50’s and early 60’s Williams led a group of blacks in a campaign of organized self-defense against the gangs of marauding Klansman that were attempting to destroy black civil society in the region. For his trouble, Williams was suspended from the NAACP and widely condemned by its leadership. Uninterested in forced integration schemes, Williams’ focus on black self-help, self-defense and a commitment to the 2nd Amendment was too much for the talented-tenthers and racial Leninists that controlled the direction of the organization. The controversy surrounding his dismissal became a major issue in the Civil Rights movement for years and many of the NAACP’s most famous members and supporters were ideological supporters of the tactics employed by the so-called “black redneck.”

Whatever one may think of the admittedly controversial Williams, one would expect a piece of scholarship claiming to be the definitive book on the NAACP’s history to contain at least some reference to Williams. Though there has been an effort to expunge Williams from the historical record by the DuBosian wing of the Civil Rights Movement for years, I was still amazed to find that there was not a single mention of Williams or the Monroe chapter in the book. The omission of Williams from this the “book of record” on the NAACP suggests either a total willingness to obscure an important period in the organization’s history, or a case of ignorance that makes the rest of the book unsalvageable. Whichever it may be, I would like to thank the index for saving me thirty dollars and several hours of my time.

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