Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour

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Jerome Carlos Johnson
SOCI 3345: Sociology of the 1960’s
Five Page Book Review: Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour by Peniel Joseph February 28, 2013

Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour by Peniel Joseph

Within the eleven chapters that comprise Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour lays a treasure chest of information for anyone interested in Black or African American history, particularly the civil rights movement that took place during the 1950’s and 1960’s. I am a self-professed scholar of African American history and I found an amazing amount of information that I was not aware of. Like most who claim to be Black History experts, I was aware of the roles of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. However, I was not aware of the impact that so many lesser known figures had in the civil rights movement. It was refreshing to learn of the roles played by Harold Cruse, Arturo Schomburg, Richard Wright, Ella Baker and Robert F. Williams. Reading this book definitely gave me a new perspective on the civil rights movement and the legacies of its leaders. Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour took me on a journey through the tumultuous events of the civil rights movement, as well as introducing me to key players in the movement of which I was previously unaware. In addition, the book served as an avenue of connecting the various segments and factions of the civil rights movement. The book also did a great job of presenting the nationwide struggle of African Americans rather than focusing on one specific geographical area. It was a daunting task, but the author did a great job of accurately placing all the pieces of the puzzle together that comprised the struggle for freedom.

Through his writings in Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour, Peniel Joseph did a great job of contrasting the stark difference between integrationists like Martin Luther King and nationalists (or separatists) like Malcolm X. Peniel Joseph was able to paint the stark contrast between the two major factions of the civil rights movement by exploring their beginnings several decades prior to the climax of the movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The book begins by detailing Malcolm X’s rise to prominence within the Nation Of Islam. The book clearly shows the power that Malcolm X wielded in the African American community. In many ways this book provides solid evidence of my personal opinion that Malcolm X was indeed a more powerful leader than Martin Luther in the African American community. Both men were charismatic and eloquent orators, but Malcolm X had a much more commanding presence. Again, this is my personal opinion, but the book definitely paints a vivid picture of the abundant power that was held by Malcolm X. The book gives an excellent discourse on the different ideological views of the two great leaders: Malcolm’s militant thinking of getting justice and equality by any means necessary versus the non-violent, Gandhi-like movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King. While King is mentioned often, the book is clearly more focused on Malcolm X and his great role in moving black people from passive, non-violent methods towards more assertive methods of achieving racial justice and equality. The book provides information about Malcolm X’s history and background, which helped to better understand his militant thinking. Malcolm X played a great role in the great shift in the methods used to fight for civil rights in the 1960’s. Many lesser known leaders looked at Malcolm X as a role model. His legacy as a leader is still felt 48 years after his assassination. Malcolm served as inspiration to the Black Power Movement that took fire in the mid and late 1960’s.

Another great thing about Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour is the way it shows the geographical aspect of the struggle for racial equality. In great detail, the author highlights the workings of civil rights leaders in major cities like Detroit but also gives a great deal of attention to...
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