Historian Shines Light On Man Who Make The Invisible Poor Visible
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 26, 2000
The truths revealed in a fourth conscience -provoking book, Michael Harrington's "The Other America" (1962), could not escape the attention of America's leaders, particularly John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Maurice Isserman correctly characterizes "The Other America" as a simple book with an easily grasped thesis: that widespread poverty existed in the midst of the nation's prosperity. Accompanying the primary thesis was another: that poverty is a culture. Harrington argued his theses passionately and substantiated them with persuasive statistics. Some readers, Isserman writes, gained the sense that scales had fallen from their eyes. The invisible poor became visible... ...The dust jacket describes Isserman, a professor of history at Hamilton College, as America's pre-eminent historian of the left, and he is no doubt at home with the factions and splinter groups with whom Harrington contended, but the initials identifying these grous are sprinkled so heavily in some of the chapters that tracing the activities of the groups the intials represent tiresome. Perhpas it is important to establich all this socialist contentiousness for the historical record, and Isserman's vast research no doubt validates his conclusions. But for the general reader it is much too much. The space it consumes might better have been given to treating aspects of Harrington's personal life.