January 2003By Thomas Ellis

Negrophobia: A Race Riot in Atlanta, 1906.  By Mark Bauerlein. Encounter Books. 325 pages. $25.95.

Bauerlein has crafted a gripping historical drama derived almost entirely from newspaper clippings, court records, and documented political speeches contemporaneous with the infamous Atlanta race riot of 1906. During a time when Booker T. Washington was at the height of his influence, and his doctrine of economic opportunity for blacks had produced a peaceful coexistence between the races, a vicious gubernatorial race began to take shape. Its decisive issue: black disenfranchisement. Each candidate had his own newspaper to serve as a daily campaign ad, and with platforms that consisted of little more than “I hate Negroes more than he does,” the citizens of Atlanta were overwhelmed with negrophobic tirades. Newspapers highlighted any black-on-white crime to “demonstrate” the need for black disenfranchisement, and when stories of blacks assaulting white women began hitting the presses, the powder keg exploded. The account of the riot itself is chilling and sometimes hard to read. The brutal actions of the white rioters descended to the level of demonic hatred.

Bauerlein also explores the efforts of black leaders, often at odds with one another, to improve the position of their race — as well as their response to the storm of negrophobia. Atlanta’s leading black intellectuals despised Booker T. Washington’s abstention from the fight for political equality; Washington, in turn, saw the intellectuals as inciters of racial backlash. Neither position could have prevented the meltdown of race relations perpetrated by a press bent on painting a perverse portrait of the Negro and thereby intoxicating a willing populace whose bloodlust ran unchecked that September of 1906. A sobering book indeed.



Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion.  By C. Stephen Evans. InterVarsity Press. 125 pages. $6.99.

The Pocket Dictionary provides brief definitions and explications of hundreds of the most important terms and arguments wielded by apologists and philosophers. It also offers short synopses of the thoughts of the greatest figures in these fields. Evans’s work, moreover, runs the gamut of religious traditions. Recognizing that terms carry slightly, and sometimes vastly, different meanings in different religious contexts, he sorts out the varying meanings attendant to varying systems. Terms and persons are presented in alphabetical order, and the definitions are cross-referenced. This little book can easily be tucked in one’s pocket or stashed in a briefcase. I recommend the Pocket Dictionary as a quick guide for anyone engaged, if only as an observer, in religious dialogue.



A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati.  By Luciana Frassati. Ignatius. 179 pages. $12.95.

“I wish everyone, especially the young, to draw inspiration and encouragement from his short but radiant life of consistent Christian witness.” So spoke the Holy Father in 1989 of the young saint so lovingly remembered in this book written by his sister. Though dead by the age of 24, St. Pier Giorgio Frassati had matured in charity well beyond the comprehension of his close friends or family. His fervent spirituality was often checked by his wealthy parents, whose relationship with him was always marked by tension. Witnessing the rise of Fascism in Italy, he was himself heavily involved in political activism. But his style of activism included more than protests and pamphleteering — prayer was its center.

The good Lord knows what we need and when we need it. In Pier Giorgio Frassati, He has given us a saint who could pass today’s (not so original) “hip” tests: He was athletic, witty, politically active, popular, and handsome. Luciana’s portrayal of her brother does more than list facts and dates; it does what a good “saint book” ought to do — makes us want to emulate the saint. This biography is perfect for those struggling to find a role model their teenagers cannot dismiss as a “loser” or a “Jesus-freak.”



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