AUTHOR OF UNLIKELY HEROES
The Central Text for the Course
Dr. Jack Bass is professor of humanities and social sciences emeritus at the College of Charleston and is also a scholar in residence at the Citadel. He is the author or co-author of eight nonfiction books about the American South. His works have focused on Southern politics, race relations, and the role of law in shaping the civil rights era. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Dr. Bass studied as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in American Studies from Emory University. After 13 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, twice named South Carolina "journalist of the year," he spent two years as a research scholar at Duke University and 18 months at the Institute of Legal History at the University of South Carolina. He served for five years as director of American South Special Projects at the University of South Carolina, where he produced a 14-part television course, "The American South Comes of Age." He has written for the Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Constitution, Washington Post, The New Republic, The Nation, and the New York Times. In announcing Professor Bass as the recipient of the 1994 Robert Kennedy Book Award grand prize for Taming the Storm: The Life and Times of Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., Arthur Schlesinger Jr. acclaimed it as "a strong and evocative work that illuminates the struggle for racial justice." In Foreign Affairs, Walter Russell Mead said that Dr. Bass' book STROM: The Complicated Personal and Political Life of Strom Thurmond (co-authored with Marilyn Thompson) "opens a window into a region and a culture that foreigners and non-southern Americans must understand to have a clear picture of how the United States works."
In calling Unlikely Heroes "an important book," Jonathan Yardley wrote, "Jack Bass has done a first-rate job of cutting to the heart of a complex and at times ambiguous subject." Nationally acclaimed columnist and author Anthony Lewis wrote that Dr. Bass "has brought this recent history to life, telling us much that we had not known."
David Broder characterized Dr. Bass' book Transformation of Southern Politics as "a prime source for all those who follow contemporary politics ... a compelling story with insights on every page." In a review of Dr. Bass' book The Orangeburg Massacre, Roy Reed wrote in The New York Times Book Review, "It is too often true that the only redress of a great wrong is good reporting of it. This book is excellent reporting, and it apparently will stand as the only righting of what went wrong at Orangeburg."
Dr. Bass's most recent book, co-authored with Scott Poole, is The Palmetto State, The Making of Modern South Carolina (his eighth book about the American South). Former Southern Historical Association President Dan Carter says, "Politics, literature, popular culture, the greatest transformation of race relations: it's all here in this new narrative history of the Palmetto State." Dr. Bass' ninth book, Justice Abandoned, is tentatively scheduled for publication in 2012. Its central theme is to tell in full the story of the Supreme Court's central role in ending Reconstruction and undermining congressional intent through its interpretation of the 14th Amendments to the Constitution. The book will combine Supreme Court and Southern history.
Note on reading "Unlikely Heroes": I selected "Unlikely Heroes" as the central text for this course because Professor Jack Bass' interdisciplinary academic background makes him uniquely qualified to write about Constitutional Law and the Direct Action Campaign that led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act; my consultation with Professor James Fox reaffirmed my belief that it is a particularly appropriate book for law students who are interested in this subject.
Professor Bass' style also makes this book particularly popular with law students who have completed this course, and the travel course that follows the classroom course. Professor Bass writes in the style of true cultural biography. Professor David Reynolds emphasizes the importance of such writing, explaining that "cultural biography is based on the idea that human beings have a dynamic, dialogic relationship to many aspects of their historical surroundings, such as politics, society, literature, and religion. The special province of the cultural biographer is to explore this relationship, focusing on three questions: How does my subject (how do my subjects) reflect his or her (their) era? How does my subject (how do my subjects) transcend the era - that is, what makes him or her (them) unique? What impact did my cultural subject have on the era? * * * Once the cultural biographer accepts the cultural environment as a viable area of study, new vistas of information and insight open up." Jack Bass is a quintessential cultural biographer, and his style is critical to the law student's appreciation of the relationship between Constitutional Law and the Direct Action Campaign for Civil Rights - then and now.