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Vernon Can Read!

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

While a college student in 1955, Vernon Jordan had a summer job driving for a white Southerner retiree. Discovering that Jordan was reading books in his spare time, his conservative boss exclaimed with astonishment: "Vernon can read!" The statement actually reflected a dislike of the implications of African Americans becoming highly educated.

In spite of the Jim Crow system, Jordan had the advantage of growing up in a stable family with ambitious parents who encouraged him to work hard and strive for success. As a teenager, he demonstrated leadership abilities and won speech contests. Following graduation from Howard University Law School in 1960, he worked in numerous civil rights positions and served as head of the Urban League during the 1970's. After surviving a white racist's assassination attempt in 1980, he decided to practice law and soon became one of the nation's most respected lawyers.

Jordan's memoir tells the story of a remarkable life that included courage, hard work, racial pride, family sorrows, ambition, and great achievements. The memoir also presents an insightful and fascinating perspective on race relations during the second half of the twentieth century. It includes many interesting anecdotes about Jordan's relationships with civil rights leaders and American Presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Ronald Reagan.

The book reveals Jordan as a pragmatist able to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining a healthy sense of humor. While discontent with the status quo, he emphasizes the great progress that African Americans have made during his lifetime.