Monthly Archives: November 2016

Politics in Paperback: Grenville Clark and Thomas J. Pendergast

After the election, we have politics on the brain and now take a look at two very different political subjects of two books newly out in paperback. In the award-winning A Very Private Public Citizen: The Life of Grenville Clark, Nancy Peterson Hill gives life to the unsung account of a largely anonymous American and reveals how the scope of Clark’s life and career reflected his selfless passion for progress, equality, and peace.

In contrast, Thomas J. Pendergast created a powerful political machine that used illegal voting and criminal enforcers to gain power. He took control of Kansas City and ran it as his own personal business, receiving over $30 million annually in the 1930s from gambling, prostitution, and narcotics, putting him in the big leagues of American civic corruption.

Nancy Peterson Hill


$24.95 ¦ ISBN: 978-0-8262-2091-2 ¦ 280 pages ¦ 24 illustrations


hill-webRecipient of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, the David J Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History or Biography, and the New-York Historical Society Annual Book Prize in American History


Grenville Clark was born to wealth and privilege in Manhattan, where his maternal grandfather, LeGrand Bouton Cannon, was an industry titan, retired Civil War colonel, and personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. Clark grew up on a first-name basis with both Presidents Roosevelt, and his close friends included Supreme Court justices. He was well known and respected in the inner circles of business, government, and education.


During his extensive career, he refused pay while serving as a private advisor for the Secretary of War of the United States during World War II, and he worked closely with the NAACP to uphold civil rights for African Americans during the tumultuous 1950s and ‘60s. Clark devoted his last decades to a quest for world peace through limited but enforceable world law, rewriting the charter of the United Nations and traveling the globe to lobby the world’s leaders.


Lawrence H. Larsen & Nancy J. Hulston


$24.95 ¦ ISBN: 978-0-8262-2114-8¦ 256 pages ¦ 35 illustrations larsen-pendergast-72-dpi


Part of the Missouri Biography Series, edited by William E. Foley

More than a half-century after the death of Kansas City’s notorious political boss, the Pendergast name still evokes great interest and even controversy. In this biography of Pendergast, Lawrence H. Larsen and Nancy J. Hulston have successfully provided—through extensive research, including use of recently released prison records and previously unavailable family records—a clear look at the life of Thomas J. Pendergast.

Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1872, Tom Pendergast moved to Kansas City around 1890 to work for his brother James, founder of the Pendergast “Goat” faction in Kansas City Democratic politics. In 1911, Pendergast became head of the Goats, and over the next fifteen years he created a powerful—and corrupt—political machine.

In this well-balanced biography, the authors examine Pendergast’s rise to power, his successes as a political leader, his compassion for the destitute, and his reputation for keeping his word. They also examine Pendergast’s character development and how his methods became more and more ruthless. Pendergast had no use for ideology in his “invisible government”—only votes counted.

Now in Paperback: The African American Experience in Kansas City and Missouri

Three books that focus on the African American experience in Missouri—and particularly in Kansas City—are now available! Sherry Lamb Schirmer examines how white residents’ ideas about race and class helped shape the urban landscape in Kansas City. Charles E. Coulter traces the way the African American community in Kansas City developed, despite the restrictions of segregation and discrimination. And Gary Kremer takes a look at the experience of African Americans in the state as a whole, from the end of the Civil War through the 1960s.


Sherry Lamb Schirmer

ISBN: 978-0-8262-2095-0
272 pages
maps, tables

A City Divided is an informative and very readable study of how whites’ racial attitudes evolved and shaped social relations in one modern metropolis. Schirmer is particularly good at revealing why and how white Kansas Citians infused the social meaning of urban space with racial content. Schirmer contributes to the ongoing effort by scholars to show that the system of racial discrimination and the perceptions that bolster it are functional and change throughout time. Indeed, the deeply embedded discriminatory housing practices, both covert and overt, help to explain the persistence of residential segregation even as activists dismantled Jim Crow in other areas.”—Journal of Planning History

Because of rapid changes in land use and difficulty in suppressing crime, the control of urban spaces became an acute concern for the white middle class in Kansas City. As the African American population grew, whites increasingly identified blacks with what deprived a given space of its middle-class character. The white middle class established its own identity by excluding blacks from the urban spaces this group occupied. Although black and white activists successfully laid the foundation for desegregating public accommodations in Kansas City, this effort failed to dismantle the systems of spatial exclusion and inequitable law enforcement, which continue to shape race relations in Kansas City.

ISBN: 978-0-8262-2112-4
360 pages
17 maps, tables, and illustrations

“Coulter’s first-rate research, if absorbed fully, ought to open a lot of eyes as today’s Kansas City residents drive, bicycle or walk to the neighborhood grocery, the sports stadium, the suburbs and downtown.”—Kansas City Star

Unlike many cities farther north, Kansas City, Missouri had a significant African American population by the mid-nineteenth century and also served as a way station for those migrating north or west. Coulter focuses on the people and institutions that shaped the city’s black communities from the end of the Civil War until the outbreak of World War II, blending rich historical research with first-person accounts that allow participants in this historical drama to tell their own stories of struggle and accomplishment.

While recognizing that segregation and discrimination shaped their reality, Coulter moves beyond race relations to emphasize the enabling aspects of African Americans’ lives and show how people defined and created their world. As the first extensive treatment of black history in Kansas City, this is an exceptional account of minority achievement in America’s crossroads.

ISBN: 978-0-8262-2116-2
288 pages
35 illustrations

“A crash course in African American history from the end of the Civil War to the 1960s.”—Missouri Life 

No one has written more about the African American experience in Missouri over the past four decades than Gary Kremer. Now, for the first time, fourteen of his best articles on the subject are available in one place. By placing the articles in chronological order of historical events, Kremer combines them into one detailed account that addresses issues such as the transition from slavery to freedom, all-black rural communities, and the lives of African Americans seeking new opportunities in Missouri’s cities.

Kremer also includes a personal introduction revealing how he first became interested in researching African American history and how his mentor Lorenzo Greene helped him realize his eventual career path. Race and Meaning makes a collection of largely unheard stories spanning much of Missouri history accessible for the first time in one place, allowing each article to be read in the context of the others, and creating a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts.


Related title:
Micah W. Kubic


Hardcover $75.00
296 pages
15 illustrations

“Provides us both a substantive and theoretical window into understanding the internecine dynamics of black urban mobilization and empowerment. This book will earn great notice among students of black and urban politics.”—Todd Shaw, author of Now Is the Time! Detroit Black Politics and Grassroots Activism Founded in 1962 by African American political activists in Kansas City, Missouri, Freedom, Incorporated was crucial to the desegregation of Kansas City public facilities. As the oldest surviving organization of its kind, Freedom, Inc. has played an essential role in raising the visibility of key concerns among the black community and engineering a string of firsts in elected offices, including the election of many black Missouri state representatives since 1963.

This, the first history of the organization, shows that these feats were achieved only because Freedom, Inc. was institutionalized, corporatist, capable of mobilizing the black community, and engaged in strategic bargaining with other political actors. Kubic asserts that strong local organizations are dynamic organism, and that they, rather than charismatic candidates or interracial alliances, are the crucial players in both determining political outcomes and advancing black interests in urban areas.