Milton Meltzer Essay - Critical Essays

Meltzer, Milton


Milton Meltzer 1915–

American historian, biographer, critic, editor, and novelist.

Meltzer's histories and biographies reflect his concern for past and present injustices and point to the need for the protection of human rights and the preservation of human dignity. He writes for young adults with the hope that his books, in addition to presenting pertinent historical facts, will move his readers to question themselves and society, in order to recognize injustice and help effect social change.

Meltzer is best known for portraying the struggles of minorities. His histories have helped fill a gap in high school and college textbooks that briefly mention or ignore the uglier aspects of minority problems in the United States and elsewhere. Critics have applauded Meltzer's books for shedding new light on the racism and oppression faced by American blacks, Jews, Indians, Chinese, and Hispanics.

Meltzer's biographies, particularly his Langston Hughes (Hughes was his personal friend and collaborator) and his Dorothea Lange: A Photographer's Life, are considered of special value. Meltzer feels that biographies can show young adults how individual men and women have aspired to and accomplished great things in spite of countless obstacles. Widely read and acclaimed by many critics, Meltzer is considered a committed and challenging writer.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 13-16, rev. ed. and Something about the Author, Vol. 1.)

Sophia B. Mehrer

[In Tongue of Flame: The Life of Lydia Maria Child, Milton Meltzer] has provided teenagers with an outstanding biography of a little-known nineteenth-century woman writer, founder and editor of the first children's magazine, Juvenile Miscellany, and a fiery and tireless crusader for the abolition of slavery. In describing her activities as friend, co-worker, and advisor to many of the outstanding social reform figures of the time, Mr. Meltzer gives his readers a history of the period and the turbulent movements in which Maria Child took part. Read in the context of today's civil rights movement, this is a timely and exciting biography.

Sophia B. Mehrer, in her review of "Tongue of Flame: The Life of Lydia Maria Child," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the May, 1965 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1965), Vol. 11, No. 9, May, 1965, p. 117.

Jean Fritz

Maria Child served so many causes and served them so zealously, a biographer less skillful than Milton Meltzer might easily depict her as one of those shrill women reformers who strode so militantly across the American scene in the middle of the 19th century. [In Tongue of Flame: The Life of Lydia Maria Child"], Mr. Meltzer falls into no such trap. Mrs. Child emerges as a gifted many-sided person who could commit herself totally and passionately to a movement without losing her independent view of it. And it is this view that, thanks to Mr. Meltzer, is so illuminating to the modern reader. Indeed, there could hardly be a better way to experience the cumulative effect of the slavery conflict, incident by incident.

"I sweep dead leaves out of paths and dust mirrors," Mrs. Child once said. Milton Meltzer has also dusted a mirror and he has done it well.

Jean Fritz, in her review of "Tongue of Flame: The Life of Lydia Maria Child," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1965 by The New York Times Company: reprinted by permission), July 18, 1965, p. 22.

Publishers Weekly

[Time of Trial, Time of Hope: The Negro in America, 1919–1941] begins with the return of Negro soldiers from World War I and ends with the threatened march on Washington in 1941 that culminated in the first Fair Employment Practices Commission fought for by A. Philip Randolph. It's the rare book of history that points out the problems of American Negroes in those years: problems of economic survival, court injustice, lynchings. Here are the bare facts, presented clearly and objectively without mincing of words.

A review of "Time of Trial, Time of Hope: The Negro in America, 1919–1941," in Publishers Weekly (reprinted from the August 22, 1966 issue of Publishers Weekly, published by R. R. Bowker Company; copyright © 1966 by R. R. Bowker Company), Vol. 190, No. 8, August 22, 1966, p. 106.

Zena Sutherland

[Time of Trial, Time of Hope: The Negro in America, 1919–1941, by Milton Meltzer and August Meier is a] quite good description of the many problems and the few victories of the Negro people in the United States in the years between the first and second world wars. The authors write with authority and sympathy in a straightforward style…. The book considers political, economic, cultural, agricultural, educational, and other problems; the sections on the depression and on the organization of the CIO are particularly good…. (pp. 112-13)

Zena Sutherland, in her review of "Time of Trial, Time of Hope: The Negro in America, 1919–1941," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; copyright 1967 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 20, No. 7, March, 1967, pp. 112-13.

Marilyn Goldstein

[Thaddeus Stevens and the Fight for Negro Rights is a] timely, authoritative account of the career of a fanatical anti-slavery Congressman…. Stevens' intolerance and acid wit are presented sympathetically yet objectively. The documentary style is enlivened by quotations from leading political figures of the day…. A welcome book on a much neglected early "civil rights" crusader.

Marilyn Goldstein, in her review of "Thaddeus Stevens and the Fight for Negro Rights," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the March, 1967 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1967), Vol. 13, No. 7, March, 1967, p. 138.

Joseph H. Taylor

[In Thaddeus Stevens and the Fight for Negro Rights] Milton Meltzer has given us a readable little account of Thaddeus Stevens' career. He has also weaved in much of the history of the period of Stevens' political activity. Although the author quotes extensively from the sources and from secondary works, the reader is not "plagued" by footnotes or references to notes at the back of the book. Thaddeus Stevens and the Fight for Negro Rights will probably fail to meet the test of rigid historical scholarship, but the average reader will be able to gain an appreciation of the life and works of one of the greatest precursors of "The Negro Revolution."

Joseph H. Taylor,...

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Robert Coles

[A] lot has happened in this country in the last century, as Milton Meltzer has shown in Bread—and Roses. The title comes from a poem by James Oppenheim, who saw mill girls in Lawrence, Massachusetts, picketing for higher wages and better working conditions. Their signs said, "We want bread and roses." They wanted the money their labor deserved, and the sense of dignity, too. Mr. Meltzer's book shows how hard and long American workers have struggled to achieve the power some of their unions now have. He relies heavily on quotations from both rich men and poor men. He is unsparing in the political and economic details he brings forth—so that at least those youths who read his book will know some of the less...

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A. H. Raskin

["Bread—and Roses: The Struggle of American Labor, 1865–1915"] is a one-dimensional story of battle by an infant labor movement against the forces of corporate greed in a period when all the institutions of government and polite society were on the side of the employer. The very fact that the book is episodic and often overdrawn adds to its usefulness in supplying a new generation of readers with some illumination on the atavistic hatreds and insecurities behind many of the seemingly irrational things unions do now that they enjoy large membership, huge treasuries and economic power sufficient to paralyze entire communities….

Mr. Meltzer's pages, prickly with eyewitness accounts of unionism's...

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Almont Lindsey

[Bread—and Roses: The Struggle of American Labor, 1865–1915] provides a somewhat kaleidoscopic view of the plight of the worker and the more dramatic episodes that have characterized his struggle for a better life…. The most exciting chapters are devoted to such conflicts as the Railroad Strike of 1877, the Haymarket Affair, the Homestead Strike, the Pullman Strike, the Textile Strike at Lawrence and the Ludlow Massacre. Drawing on carefully selected eyewitness accounts and skillfully weaving them into the narrative, the author makes everything come alive with telling effect.

Meltzer is an impassioned writer and he gives the impression of being very angry over the callousness and greed...

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[Langston Hughes: A Biography is] acceptable only by default, as there is little material in libraries on this most important Black writer…. Accurate as far as it goes, this covers most of Hughes' work and includes bibliographies both of it and of studies on the author. But Hughes deserves better than the informal but plodding style which characterizes this pedestrian portrayal of him.

Bruce L. MacDuffie, in his review of "Langston Hughes: A Biography," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the January, 1969 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1969),...

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Hoyt W. Fuller

In Langston Hughes, the impressive new biography of the poet by Milton Meltzer, emphasis rightly is placed on the apparent simplicity of the man. The poet's countless friends and acquaintances knew him as an unassuming, unfailingly good-humored fellow, entirely without pretense, and his acts of kindness and generosity to aspiring young writers are legendary.

The enigma of Langston Hughes (for there remains one) is not raised for the speculation of the reader. From the always interesting events of the poet's life as recorded in this very readable book, one can move without nagging questions to the varied pleasures of the poet's works.

Hoyt W. Fuller, in...

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Caroline Bird

Robert Goldston's "The Great Depression" summarizes the politics of [the] era from Hoover to Willkie in the terms Roosevelt liberals used to describe them at the time. Milton Meltzer's "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"… aspires to tell "what happened to auto workers and wheat farmers, to sales clerks and secretaries, to teachers and doctors, to miners and sharecroppers, to old folks and children, to white and black" between the Crash and the inauguration of Roosevelt. Both draw on the emerging photo-journalism of the day for illustration, but Meltzer relies heavily on eye-witness accounts of the time, while Goldston describes and interprets trends as if he were writing a newspaper feature story….


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Paul M. Angle

[In "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?: The Great Depression 1929–1933"], Mr. Meltzer is concerned primarily with the crash of 1929 and its effect, in the next four years, on the people most directly concerned: farmers, workingmen, miners, Negroes and small merchants…. The book has a directness and an immediacy beyond [Mr. Robert Goldston's "The Great Depression: The United States in the Thirties"], although one man writes as well as the other. And that is very well indeed….

Both are supposed to have been written for young people, but neither is beneath the notice of adults.

Paul M. Angle, "The Crash, and After," in Book World—Chicago Tribune (©...

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Kirkus Reviews

The one solid, unassailable accomplishment of [Freedom Comes to Mississippi: The Story of Reconstruction] is to set forth the achievements of the black-supported Republican state government and black office holders on the state and local levels between 1870 and 1873; as a history of Reconstruction, however, it is emotional and partisan, fuller of blame than of sober, discriminating assessment. Omitted from the impressionistic tableau are the very limitations to the Emancipation Proclamation that the Thirteenth Amendment rectified and the absolute necessity for Congress to give the blacks votes to gain ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment; much that was specifically motivated becomes a matter of amorphous...

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Francis D. Lazenby

A great deal has been written about slavery in the ancient world, but, unfortunately, some of the information is hidden away in scholarly books and journals often inaccessible. The merit of this short, but authoritative work [Slavery: From the Rise of Western Civilization to the Renaissance] is that it makes available to the general reader many of the findings of scholars intent on their own special interests. Meltzer, widely known for numerous works on black history and social reform, writes directly and without sentimentality, making visible the entire pattern of slavery in human history, and in a manner which never fails to point up man's inhumanity to man. What emerges with especially graphic force is the...

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Janet G. Polacheck

[In Slavery: From the Rise of Western Civilization to the Renaissance, the] economic and political basis of slavery is developed and forms an excellent introduction for those readers concerned with the more recent racial basis of the "peculiar" institution…. Mr. Meltzer has contributed a basic work in an area where almost no material exists on the junior-senior high school level, making this an essential item.

Janet G. Polacheck, in her review of "Slavery: From the Rise of Western Civilization to the Renaissance," in Library Journal (reprinted from Library Journal, July, 1971; published by R. R. Bowker Co. (a Xerox company); copyright © 1971 by Xerox...

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John K. Bettersworth

Milton Meltzer, one of our best writers in the field of black history, handles the Reconstruction story in ["Freedom Comes to Mississippi"] with the spit and polish of a man with a message and the craftsmanship to get it told with dramatic impact. Instead of relating the story in the entire South, he concentrates upon what happened "when freedom came to Mississippi." From that, we may draw our conclusions about what happened to the South as a whole. The reader is introduced to a minimum number of people and events—but the point emerges, loud and clear: A century ago, freedom came to the black man, who experienced it for a few years—until the political bargain of 1877 between Republicans and Democrats left the...

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Kirkus Reviews

[The second volume of Meltzer's study of slavery, Slavery II: From the Renaissance to Today,] encompasses slavery as it existed, and in some cases still exists, in Africa, Arabia, China and under the Nazis, and also [gives] a remarkably detailed picture of the everyday existence of slaves in the Americas. As always, Meltzer is a careful historian who looks for the documentable truth behind prevalent generalizations—he gives the lineage of his statistics, citing Curtin's revised estimates of the volume of the Atlantic slave trade and, on such controversial topics as the extent of resistance among American slaves, he presents the opposing views of prominent historians. (Meltzer himself concludes that there is a...

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Kirkus Reviews

[The Right to Remain Silent is a] passionate, far ranging defense of the Fifth Amendment protection of the right to remain silent which goes back to the origins of its systematic violation during the inquisition … and its gradual establishment as a principle of English common law through the struggles of political prisoners such as leveler John Lilbourne. Meltzer extends his examination of the right on through the nonpolitical applications of the Miranda and Esposito decisions, defending it as logical and necessary … against the desire of the police to obtain a confession. Many will be surprised to learn that the much lauded Thomas More was a proponent of the inquisition, and Meltzer's defense of the rights...

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Beryl Robinson

"'I have been hunted like a wolf and now I am being sent away like a dog,'" uttered [Henry Wager] Halleck, one of the last leaders of the Seminole resistance, after he had been captured. The destruction of his small band was among the final decisive acts of the U.S. Government in its struggle to conquer the Seminole people during a war that lasted from 1835 to 1842, "America's longest, bloodiest and most costly Indian war." [In Milton Meltzer's Hunted Like a Wolf, the] period of exploitation and conquest that was preface to Halleck's capture forms the bulk of the sober account beginning with the arrival of Columbus…. The story of the Seminoles' eventual subjugation is a sorry one, akin to similar stories from...

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Alice Miller Bregman

[Slavery II: from the Renaissance to Today, a] sequel to Meltzer's commendable Slavery: from the Rise of Western Civilization to the Renaissance … completes his comprehensive study of the institution of slavery throughout the world and its history. Volume I covered the practice from primitive times to the Renaissance; volume II covers the remaining portion of recorded history to the present. Meltzer's purpose "is to help the general reader to see the whole pattern of slavery in human history and how it has shaped the lives we are leading." He has admirably succeeded in reaching his goal…. [Meltzer's] conclusion that slavery is essential to the world's economy holds forth little hope for its...

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Publishers Weekly

The reader of this excellent and searching book [The Right to Remain Silent] will have a thorough understanding of the constitutional right that insures due process of law in trying the accused. Discussing actual cases of people persecuted because they claimed their privilege under the Fifth Amendment, the author shows how dangerous it is to take this stand as an admission of guilt. He reaches far back into ancient times as well to show how necessary it is to respect the right of the accused to remain silent.

A review of "The Right to Remain Silent," in Publishers Weekly (reprinted from the January 15, 1973 issue of Publishers Weekly, published by R. R....

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Barbara Ritchie

Adolescents and young adult readers of "Underground Man" may perceive that they have already experienced young Josh Bowen's America of the 1830's, through participating (if only via TV newscasts) in the social and civic disorders of the 1960's. In writing an absorbing story of a young Yank's adventures as a "nigger stealer" for the Underground Railroad, Milton Meltzer has written a contemporary novel. The cultural, political, moral and ethical issues that troubled young Joshua Bowen are those troubling today's youth. We hear them say so.

The familiar generation gap is dramatized in the opening chapters. It is not the expected brouhaha between a rebellious kid and his mean old man. Nowhere in the...

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Rosalind K. Goddard

Slavery and the abolitionist movement provide the background for this stiff historical novel [Underground Man]…. Meltzer's nonfiction accounts of black history are much richer and tighter in their illumination of time and place. There is an absence of depth and intensity here due to his failure to develop the black characters fully as people instead of as types.

Rosalind K. Goddard, in her review of "Underground Man," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the April, 1973 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1973), Vol. 19, No. 8, April, 1973, p. 77....

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Janet P. Sarratt

[In Hunted Like a Wolf: The Story of the Seminole War], Meltzer reveals how the Americans took advantage of the Seminoles' innocence and drove them from their homeland with greed, doubletalk, and treachery. The facts are presented in a clear, straightforward manner, showing each aspect of the war from the causes to the lasting effects. This well-written account will appeal to an older audience than would read [Henrietta] Buckmaster's Seminole Wars.

Janet P. Sarratt, in her review of "Hunted Like a Wolf: The Story of the Seminole War," in Library Journal (reprinted from Library Journal, June 15, 1973; published by R. R. Bowker Co. (a Xerox company);...

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Zena Sutherland

Although fictionalized, the life story of Joshua Bowen … [in Underground Man] is based on fact: the sources cited in the author's postscript are evidence that Milton Meltzer has done the thorough research that distinguishes his nonfiction titles…. Spare in construction, the book has historical interest, dramatic appeal, and an aura of suspense and danger that emanates from the events rather than by the declaration of the author.

Zena Sutherland, in her review of "Underground Man," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; © 1973 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 27, No. 1, September, 1973, p....

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Kirkus Reviews

[Bound for the Rio Grande: The Mexican Struggle, 1845–1850] is not another history from the Mexican or Mexican-American viewpoint, but a study of how the war with Mexico grew out of the spirit of Manifest Destiny and the conflict between anti-and pro-slavery forces…. Meltzer devotes some attention to the very fluid political situation in Mexico and to Santa Anna's overconfident strategy, but the primary sources principally reveal the American soldier's disillusionment with the violence, cruelty and bungling of this "most abominable war." In one especially interesting chapter, Meltzer reports on widespread desertion from the American army and on the formation of the San Patricio Battalion, composed of former...

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Sanford Schwartz

Reading ["The Eye of Conscience: Photographers and Social Change" by Milton Meltzer and Bernard Cole] is a little like those times in school when you went in for a session with the guidance counselor: the man meant well, but the points he made, even about important things, were so predictable, and the terms he used were so solemn, and he repeated himself so much, that you were never sure, by the end, whether you were more bored or more annoyed with him. Like the guidance counselor's, the language in "The Eye of Conscience" isn't the kind that's geared for having fresh perceptions, or even for presenting old perceptions in a lively way. It's a shame everything is so smothered, because the book presents good subjects...

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Publishers Weekly

In the foreword to this special trip into a particular past [World of Our Fathers: The Jews of Eastern Europe], Milton Meltzer articulates what must be an almost universal experience: He tells us that, as a child and as a youth, he expressed no interest in where his immigrant parents had come from or what their life was like. Later, he began to search for his own roots as he became involved in writing history. What he has to tell young readers should fascinate them, no matter what their color or religion, because modern teenagers don't merely accept the present and take the past for granted. The rich and the poor Jews of 19th century Europe come to sturdy life in these pages; the author's research is thorough...

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Paul Heins

In his frankly autobiographical Foreword [to World of Our Fathers: The Jews of Eastern Europe], the author has poignantly stated what impelled him to write this book: "I had too little knowledge of my past." In part a history of the Jews during the Christian era, the account is chiefly concerned with the life and fate of Eastern European Jews before and after the partition of Poland and especially under the restrictive and repressive rule of the Russian Czarist government. Pointing out the Eastern European Jewish social distinction between those who worked with their hands and those who didn't—between the scholars and businessmen and the mass of artisans, unskilled laborers, and factory workers—the author...

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Anita Silvey

[Milton Meltzer's] previous works of nonfiction have already established him as one of the finest American historians for young readers. [Bound for the Rio Grande: The Mexican Struggle] demonstrates once again his skill at combining readable and enjoyable prose with an excellent choice and handling of original historical material…. The numerous illustrations, the interspersed songs and poetry, the colorfulness of the first-hand historical accounts—all add to a superb analysis of the "most disgraceful war."

Anita Silvey, in her review of "Bound for the Rio Grande: The Mexican Struggle 1845–1850," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1975 by the Horn Book,...

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Saul Maloff

Milton Meltzer's ["Never to Forget: The Jews of the Holocaust"] is an act of desperation—an act of piety and pity, wrath and love, despair and homage; but the motive force, the terrible sense of urgency which drives and animates it, is desperation. In an afterword, he notes that an authoritative study of American high school history textbooks, conducted nearly 30 years after World War II, revealed that "their treatment of Nazism was brief, bland, superficial, and misleading," that "racism, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust were ignored or dismissed in a few lines," and that textbooks designed for colleges and universities were "not substantially better." "Darkness," said the historian Golo Mann, "hides the vilest...

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Anita Silvey

The Holocaust is a difficult subject to present to children; for although the tendency to protect young readers from harsh reality has been somewhat abandoned in the last decade, an author could scarcely enjoy describing barbarity and cruelty to young people. Yet the understandable impulse to soften the impact and horror of such events would be intolerable in discussing the Third Reich's extermination of the Jews. Facing this difficult problem, the author [of Never to Forget: The Jews of the Holocaust] has managed to present a powerful and overwhelming picture of the Final Solution. By carefully choosing eyewitness accounts, by excellent use of sources such as Raul Hilberg's The Destruction of the European...

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Lyla Hoffman

The mass murder of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II is the subject of this compelling history ["Never to Forget: The Jews of the Holocaust"]. Interweaving background information, chilling statistics, individual accounts and newspaper reports, it provides an excellent introduction to its subject for American young people, whose lack of knowledge about the war and/or about anti-Semitism continually amazes people like the reviewer who lived through those times.

Scapegoating a minority group to gain and consolidate political power was not a device originated by Adolf Hitler, but it was used by him with outstanding success. Meltzer documents just how and why this happened, and how Hitler...

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Nancy Aghazarian

Statistics alone cannot convey the extent of death and human misery suffered by the Jews of the holocaust…. [In Never to Forget: The Jews of the Holocaust] Milton Meltzer tries to give meaning to these statistics by relating the fates of many individuals and having others tell their own stories through memoirs, poems, letters and songs. While no book can convey the Jewish suffering in its true dimensions, Never to Forget makes an excellent attempt. Written on a subject about which everyone should be knowledgeable, the book compels the reader to turn the pages until its conclusion. Meltzer includes short histories of anti-semitism and Hitler's rise to power. The bulk of the text, however, is devoted to...

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Gilbert Millstein

I think of "Violins and Shovels" as a salutary book. It is intended for young readers—but I think it could be read profitably by older ones who have neither the time nor the inclination to plow through the records [of the W.P.A. Arts Projects] in great detail. All will learn that, for a time, anyway, no government in history ever did what the Roosevelt Administration did: Make it possible for artists to live—neither well nor ill but in reasonable comfort, so that they might tend their arts and bring them to flower.

Readers will learn once more of the fundamental hostility toward the arts of legislatures and businesses…. And they will learn exactly how little is required for an artist to...

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[Violin and Shovels: The WPA Art Projects, a New Deal for America's Hungry Artists of the 1930's is a] first-rate piece of reporting on the outlet the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided for writers, musicians, actors, directors, and artists of the Depression period. The text is dotted with vivid thumbnail sketches of famous figures from the art/theatre/music world (e.g., Nikolai Sokoloff, Henry Alsberg, Hallie Flanagan, Jackson Pollock, Olive Stanton) and with brief accounts of fascinating incidents from this little-known phase of our artistic history. Written in the same flowing style and with the same accuracy that characterizes Meltzer's histories, this is the only indepth treatment of the...

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David E. Scherman

It is one of the glories of Milton Meltzer's superb life of Lange ["Dorothea Lange: A Photographer's Life"], perhaps an unintended one (but more about unconscious art in a minute), that his innate reporting skill and honesty forbade him to gloss over the complexities and conflicts despite which his subject managed to become a legendary figure in recent American social history and even, to many critics and somewhat fewer photographers, a great photographer. There are other fortuitous reasons why it is a good book. Mr. Meltzer is a historian himself, with a special expertise on the Depression ("Brother, Can You Spare a Dime"), which produced a Dorothea Lange, and Government subsidy to the arts ("Violins and Shovels"),...

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George P. Elliott

[Though] Dorothea Lange's genius for seeing with a camera is what makes her important in the world and also intensifies the reader's interest in her, it is not that genius in itself which makes her a good subject for a biography. For that purpose, it matters much more that she talks well about herself and her work. Unlike many artists, she does not cover her traces as a creator. Reading [Milton Meltzer's Dorothea Lange: A Photographer's Life], one does not just contemplate the end result of her striving to make images that, to her mind, are beautiful only if they are true; one can follow her as she strives, because in the book she talks intelligently about this process, in letters and notebooks, through the...

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Robert David Turoff

It is not clear why Milton Meltzer wrote [Dorothea Lange: A Photographer's Life]. She was a fine photographer, but that is not reason enough for a biography; she suffered misfortune—polio and a long and painful illness before death—but that, without illuminating insight into its meaning, is also not reason enough for a biography; and neither in a preface nor in the body of the text is sufficient reason for the work shown, either explicitly or implicitly.

This is a straight narrative that begins by detailing Lange's family background—nothing unusual there; her childhood—polio, the departure of her father—fully linked to her photographic work later on; and then a chronological...

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Lyla Hoffman

Meltzer has made another timely contribution to the collection of nonfiction works on topics not sufficiently emphasized in schools. The Human Rights Book begins with a short …, thoughtful introduction to the subject of human rights at home and abroad. The remaining pages offer a bibliography, names and addresses of organizations working in the field, and documents issued by the United Nations and others dealing with human rights….

Meltzer describes some of the torture methods used and discusses a few of the countries with the worst records—Iran, Philippines, Argentina, South Africa, the Soviet Union and others. There is a chapter on U.S. violations of political freedom by the FBI and...

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Keith B. Cooper

[In The Human Rights Book] Meltzer seeks to determine the condition of human rights since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. He offers a brief history of the human rights movement, a variety of examples of human rights violations worldwide, and a useful bibliography and appendix of related documents. For these reasons alone, his book is valuable. Further, while one might question anyone's ability to survey this topic in a single volume, Meltzer has provided a concise and clear outline of an issue so broad and complex that many find it overwhelming. The greatest value of the book may be as an entry point for more concentrated study. Such tools are rare in this field.


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Kirkus Reviews

[In All Times, All People: A World History of Slavery] Meltzer surveys the history of slavery from ancient times, pointing out that it has existed on all continents (in Africa before Europeans got involved) but in most societies was considered a matter of poor luck rather than inferior birth. He sees racism here developing as an excuse for slavery among free people dedicated to the rights of man. He tells readers that slavery exists today in some underdeveloped parts of the world "where people are hungry, ignorant, and without a voice in government." However, his discussion of how we can get rid of slavery emphasizes laws against it and mentions that richer nations helping poorer nations "could make a...

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Zena Sutherland

[All Times, All Peoples: A World History of Slavery is] serious prose, dry but inherently dramatic…. Although Meltzer makes an occasional broad statement ("It was Christopher Columbus who started the American slave trade") that may seem inadequately clarified, he writes for the most part with scrupulous attention to facts, his attitude as objective as it is possible to be when describing the bondage of human beings.

Zena Sutherland, in her review of "All Times, All Peoples: A World History of Slavery," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; © 1980 by The University of Chicago), Vol. 34, No. 4,...

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Kirkus Reviews

The next thing to slave labor, Chinese workers were imported by the thousands to build the Western end of the transcontinental railroad. They were paid less than whites and worked longer hours (twelve a day), were forcibly prevented from leaving and exposed to avalanches, explosives, and other dangers which killed 1200 (ten percent) of them during the project…. [In The Chinese Americans] Meltzer reveals all this with proper force…. Meltzer's own memories of childhood rhymes (of the "chinky chinky chinaman" variety) occasions a patient lecture on racial stereotypes in very simple terms before he takes Chinese American history up to today's sweatshops and tongs and the need, again, for alliance with others...

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John Tchen

When I received The Chinese Americans, my conditioned initial reaction was that it would probably be another poorly researched, poorly thought out and uncritical book about the history of Chinese in the U.S. To my pleasant surprise, I found the book quite good and thoroughly engaging.

Meltzer is not only a competent social historian with an impressive number of books to his name; he is also a very good writer who presents material in a way that is far from dry and boring. Instead of giving the usual chronology—i.e., the immigration, what the Chinese did first, what they did second, and so on—Meltzer begins with the only bit of knowledge most non-Chinese Americans know about this...

(The entire section is 698 words.)

Kirkus Reviews

[In his The Hispanic Americans], Meltzer gives us the most forthright treatment yet of the force behind Hispanic-American immigration: namely, the devastating effect on the Mexican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican economies of European colonialism and later US government and business practices…. Except for the relatively prosperous first-wave Cubans, Hispanic Americans find themselves "at the bottom of the job ladder" and have received a "dismal" education here…. Meltzer describes the wretched conditions of farm workers, somewhat alleviated by the union movement, that are better known to YA readers, and the effective slave labor system that traps illegals. He emphasizes that the Hispanic-American experience is not...

(The entire section is 256 words.)

Paul Heins

[Milton Meltzer, the] author of many books about the various ethnic groups living in the United States feels that the "story of the Hispanic Americans has been neglected or hidden. Yet that history, that life in the past, has shaped our present, no matter what ethnic group we ourselves may belong to." First reminding us of the part played by the Spaniards in exploring and colonizing the Western Hemisphere, [Meltzer, in The Hispanic Americans,] considers in detail the three main streams of Hispanics who have become part of American life: the Puerto Ricans, the Chicanos in the Southwest, and the political émigrés from Cuba. He explores the development of their legal, economic, political, and cultural status in...

(The entire section is 229 words.)

Ethel R. Twichell

[The Jewish Americans is] a thoughtful and well-researched book [that] presents the history of the Jews in America through their own letters, diaries, and recollections. From a soldier's account of a skirmish with the British in 1776 to a description of an American Jew's life on a contemporary kibbutz in Israel, a wide spectrum of experience is reflected, both American and specifically Jewish. A Jewish slave trader ordering his captain to be particularly "'careful of your vessel and slaves, and be as frugal as possible'" is counterbalanced by a rebel who joined John Brown's anti-slavery forces. In the 1880s the great immigrations began; there were high expectations and the reality of wretched jobs. Jews report...

(The entire section is 237 words.)

Kirkus Reviews

[The Jewish Americans: A History in Their Own Words offers some] documentary material reflecting aspects of American Jewish history—but, as an entity, [is] less coherent or substantial than Meltzer's various earlier books on the subject. A handful of selections show Jews confronting historical anti-Semitism: Asser Levy's appeal to the New Amsterdam authorities for the Jews' "burgher rights"; the protest of three Paducah, Ky., Jews, to Lincoln, against Grant's order expelling Jews from the Tennessee district; a rabbi's memoir of bucking Klan agitation in 1920s Indiana. A considerable number, especially of early date, attest to Jewish participation in mainstream American events—the Revolution (a patriot, a...

(The entire section is 278 words.)

Terry Lawhead

The story of the Ku Klux Klan is a nightmare, and [The Truth About the Ku Klux Klan] does a very fine job of examining and demystifying the bizarre history of a strange and dangerous cult…. Meltzer is one of the best social historians writing for children, and he somehow manages to maintain an admirable objectivity while listing in detail the atrocities done in the name of white supremacy. A final chapter on what can be done and a bibliography remind readers that the final challenge is left up to each individual. What we know about can't truly hurt us.

Terry Lawhead, in his review of "The Truth about the Ku Klux Klan," in School Library Journal (reprinted from...

(The entire section is 140 words.)