cover image Into the Bright Sunshine: Young Hubert Humphrey and the Fight for Civil Rights

Into the Bright Sunshine: Young Hubert Humphrey and the Fight for Civil Rights

Samuel G. Freedman. Oxford Univ, $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-197-53519-6

Columbia journalism professor Freedman (Breaking the Line) reexamines the legacy of liberal politician Hubert Humphrey (1911–1978) in this comprehensive account. While Humphrey is best remembered for his tenure as Lyndon Johnson’s vice president and his unsuccessful bid for the White House in 1968, Freedman argues that he played a highly consequential role in the civil rights movement. During the contentious 1948 Democratic National Convention, Humphrey’s passionate endorsement of a robust civil rights platform (in the face of vigorous opposition by President Truman and Southern Democrats) set the stage, according to Freedman, for later victories such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act (which Humphrey himself helped floor-manage as a senator). Alongside a granular account of the behind-the-scenes dynamics of the convention, Freedman takes a deep dive into his subject’s personal life, with a focus on his early experiences of racism and antisemitism. Elected mayor of Minneapolis while in his 30s, Humphrey helped make the city one of the only in the nation “where a wronged job applicant could count on the government as an ally.” In the process, he became so hated by the racist right that an attempt was made on his life—and also popular enough to win a U.S. Senate seat in 1948. Freedman is no hagiographer, and notes Humphrey’s missteps, especially while serving as vice president, and his willingness to engage in dirty politics. The result is candid political biography. (July)