Ohio History Journal

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Book Reviews

Book Reviews



Peace Heroes in Twentieth-Century America. Edited and with an Introduc-

tion by Charles DeBenedetti. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,

1986. 276p.: illustrations, notes, index. $22.50.)


The publication of this book serves to remind us of the great loss the his-

torical profession suffered in the death of Charles DeBenedetti at so young

an age. An edited work with eight chapters written by various authors, it is a

book that should have a large readership both inside and outside the acad-

emy, for though written in a popular style, the essays are well-documented

and based on solid scholarship. The lives surveyed are reminders of our

rich heritage in the recent history of peace action, a heritage far too often

overlooked in texts and classroom, where the emphasis on war and milita-

rism continues to be a dominant theme. While there is an abundance of vio-

lence in our past, there is also a strong strain of nonviolent action. Historians

should make this part of the story more visible.

While the individuals discussed in these essays are not those who held

power in the traditional sense, they all exerted influence in other, less ortho-

dox ways. Their lives and work can serve as inspiration and role models for

those who must assume their task. Jane Addams, the only woman included,

usually receives credit for her work with Hull House, but her equally impor-

tant contributions to the peace movement should also be remembered. Also

inspirational are the lives and works of Eugene Debs, A.J. Muste, Martin

Luther King, Jr., and Daniel and Philip Berrigan. Some in the peace move-

ment will find it more difficult to justify including Norman Cousins, whose

concern for effectiveness led him to purge communists from SANE, Norman

Thomas, whose critical support of World War II disappointed so many, and

Albert Einstein, who helped convince President Roosevelt that the United

States should develop an atomic bomb. In seeking role models for the peace

movement, one might ask if those who left the movement when the pressure

was on should be included. Nevertheless, Charles Chatfield's essay on Nor-

man Thomas, Harold Josephson's on Albert Einstein, and Milton Katz' on

Norman Cousins present their subjects in a very positive light. Despite the

disclaimer, these men all made important contributions to the movement for

peace and social justice.

Even a little thought on the subject of peace heroes will underscore the

many problems an editor faces in deciding which individuals to include.

Since women were so important as peace leaders, it is unfortunate that only

one was included. Dorothy Day (whose omission is deplored in the editor's

introduction), Jessie Wallace Hughan, Dorothy Detzer, and Randall Fors-

berg come to mind. Including E. Raymond Wilson or Frederick J. Libby

would have added an important element, the peace leader as lobbyist. But

this is to quibble. Happily, the biographies of many more peace leaders are

now available in Harold Josephson (ed), Biographical Dictionary of Modern

Peace Leaders.

One may also question the whole concept of emphasizing leaders in the

peace movement when so much of its activity is at the grass roots level with