cover image Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America

Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America

Randall N. Robinson. Dutton Books, $25.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94402-7

Best known for his leadership in the fight to force the U.S. to impose sanctions on apartheid South Africa, Robinson emerges from this forceful memoir as little encouraged by the battles he has won. From his youth in Richmond, Va., to his army service to his student years at Harvard Law School, the American (and world) racial divide has shadowed him. His briskly episodic narrative, full of dialogue, tells of his proud Southern family and his emerging political consciousness. In 1981, as director of TransAfrica (an organization established to promote the interests of African and Caribbean nations), he was leaked classified State Department documents regarding policy toward South Africa, which, when made public, began a wave of protests resulting in numerous arrests at the South African embassy. Some of the memoir seems facile, as when Robinson erroneously claims that black students on black college campuses did not protest the Vietnam War, or explains that TransAfrica ignored black Africa because the U.S. media ignored it, or fails to acknowledge the other fighters for sanctions. Robinson now seems legitimately embittered toward black South African leaders who have embraced the U.S. establishment. Weary but unbowed, he is still fighting for democracy in Nigeria and the Caribbean. His wisdom is hard earned: it is not quiet meetings but ""staged demonstrations"" that will shake the media and political firmament, he stresses. (Feb.)