The Cundill History Prize, an international award that “recognizes and rewards the best history writing in English,” chose Separate as one of 14 books for its 2019 longlist. The shortlist of eight will be named Sept. 19, followed by three finalists on Oct. 16. The winner of the $75,000 award will be announced at a gala dinner in Montreal on Nov. 14. The longlist can be seen here.
At an evening session featuring a conversation with historian/filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr. and U.S. Judge Richard Gergel of South Carolina, Steve will discuss Separate as part of the National Book Festival’s focus on “Understanding Our World.” Gates’s latest book is Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy and the Rise of Jim Crow. Gergel’s new book is Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring.
For an early preview of the Festival lineup, click here.
On April 20 at 4 p.m., C-Span’s popular weekend series will feature Steve and Helen Thorpe, discussing their new books and the art of nonfiction writing. The Columbia Journalism School’s Abi Wright moderated the April 6 session, which was sponsored by the J. Anthony Lukas Prize for excellence in nonfiction. Steve and Helen are Lukas honorees. Click here for details.
Strong sales puts the book at number 13 for the week ending March 3 on the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association’s list. The NAIBA includes stores in seven states (NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, WV) and the District of Columbia.
Co-host Bob Garfield’s interview focuses on the roots of racial separation, and how 19th century newspapers covered protest, civil rights, and the Supreme Court. Listen to the program, which March 8-9, 2019, on podcast here.
Reviewer Terence Samuel praises Luxenberg for telling stories that “capture both the hope and hopelessness that has been central to America’s long argument about race.” Read his full review here.
“Luxenberg’s history contains so many surprises, absurdities and ironies that it would be a shame to spoil the final chapters by revealing which justice ended up on which side,” says reviewer James Goodman, distinguished professor of history and creative writing at Rutgers University. Read his full review here.
“Separate reminds us that our history is not simply a narrative of greater and greater freedom. Rights can be gained, and rights can be taken away,” says reviewer Eric Foner, professor of history at Columbia. Read his full review here.
In a live tweet from the conversation with host David Folkenflik and guest Janai Nelson of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, “On Point” quoted Steve as saying, “”People always say the civil rights movement began in the ’60s, meaning the 1960s. Wrong. Civil rights movements began in the 1860s.” Listen to the full discussion here.
The Times, on its list of “12 Books to Look for in February,” said “Luxenberg gives a three-dimensional and almost novelistic treatment to the players involved.” Read the list here. Amazon, for its Best Books of the Month, picked Separate as one of eight new books in its History category. See the entire list here.
Reviews & Praise for Separate
“Absorbing … Segregation is not one story but many. Luxenberg has written his with energy, elegance and a heart aching for a world without it.”
—James Goodman, The New York Times
“Luxenberg has chosen a fresh way to tell the story of Plessy. . . . Separate is deeply researched, and it wears its learning lightly. It’s a storytelling kind of book.”
—Louis Menand, New Yorker
“A dazzlingly well-reported chronicle of an important period. . . . Luxenberg repeatedly manages to tell us stories that capture both the hope and hopelessness that has been central to America’s long argument about race. . . . An eye-opening journey through some of the darkest passages and haunting corridors of American history.”
—Terence Samuel, NPR
“Luxenberg gives a three-dimensional and almost novelistic treatment to the players involved, drawing on diaries, letters and archival research.”
—Joumana Khatib, The New York Times
“A masterly narrative. . . . In the sweeping style of Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, this work will be enthusiastically received by informed readers and historians and is likely to become the seminal work on this crucial Supreme Court decision.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“… Luxenberg writes at the outset of his book that the story of Plessy is a reminder that ‘history is made, not ordained.’ In his moving portrait of the many figures who played a role in the case, he confirms that idea as well as another: that even the most hopeless fool’s errand can emerge, in time, as an unassailable triumph.”
—Charles Dameron, Wall Street Journal
“Luxenberg’s richly detailed portrait of America’s most turbulent time reveals why the case was such a long shot. . . . Separate vividly tells the story of how far our country had to go to repudiate its commitments to a racial double standard.”
—David Cole, The Nation
“Luxenberg brilliantly tackles a difficult task, presenting his solidly researched work clearly and with a restrained objectivity. . . . An engaging and sensitive exploration of America’s detour from the promise of equal protection.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“[Luxenberg] is a fine writer who tells this story in an engaging manner. . . . Separate reminds us that our history is not simply a narrative of greater and greater freedom.”
—Eric Foner, Washington Post
“In Separate, the context and aftermath of the court’s ruling in Plessy v Ferguson are woven into a nuanced history of America’s struggles in the 19th century as a civil war was fought, slavery ended and a new, complex racial politics haltingly took form . . . Like any good history, Separate introduces some puzzles while resolving others.”
“I dipped into [Separate] one day and ended up devouring it. This is a masterful book.”
—Chris Schuelp, editor at Amazon’s Omnivoracious
“Luxenberg has written an ambitious and deeply researched nonfiction account [that] draws on letters, diaries and archival collections to bring this true story to life.”
—Suzanne Van Atten, Atlanta Journal Constitution
“In lucid prose, Luxenberg lays out the history of racialized segregation in the North and South of the United States and offers vivid portraits of main actors in this civil rights struggle.” —Publishers Weekly
“A surprising, compelling, and brilliant milestone in understanding the history of race relations in America.”
—Bob Woodward, author of Fear: Trump in the White House
“Riveting and deeply researched, Separate tells the story surrounding one of the nation’s most devastating acts: drawing a sharp color line between black and white after the Civil War. The Plessy case was a knife that cleaved America, and Steve Luxenberg brilliantly reveals that divide with his rich narrative of admirable and flawed characters caught in the battle over racial justice. Every paragraph resonates in today’s headlines.”
—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, and professor of history, Tulane University
“Forensically researched, deeply moving, devastatingly relevant.”
—Katherine Boo, author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
“A magisterial assessment of a U.S. Supreme Court’s grievous moral collapse, a definitive work on the 1896 legal drama that afflicts us to this day.”
—David Simon, author, and creator of HBO’s The Wire
“This is a compulsively readable work of serious history, the absorbing and timely story of a disastrous U.S. Supreme Court decision, freshly told through the lives of those directly involved. Steve Luxenberg’s scholarship is deep and impressive; his writing even more so. This is history as it was lived, giving us a sense not only of the deep racism of the period, but the struggle of decent men and women to overcome it, in society and, most importantly, in themselves.”
—Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down and Hue 1968: A Turning Point in the American War in Vietnam
“Plessy v. Ferguson looms large in American history, and it remains searingly relevant today, but it is ill understood. Steve Luxenberg uses his relentless reporting skills and narrative expertise to reveal the full story. His uniquely valuable book will appeal to fans of Ron Chernow’s Grant and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit—and to anyone who wants to understand how America’s current racial landscape came to be.”
—Garrett Epps, professor of law, University of Baltimore, author of Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post–Civil War America
“At this critical moment in our nation’s struggle for racial justice, Steve Luxenberg’s Separate provides a compelling picture of an earlier stage in that quest. Unlike Gideon’s Trumpet or Simple Justice, his story does not end with a judicial triumph. But in viewing Plessy v. Ferguson through the lives of its protagonists―the plaintiff, his sponsors, his lawyer, the Justices who decided the case―he reminds us that the pursuit of justice comes down to individuals, not just institutions. He has written a fascinating, if sobering volume.”
―Peter M. Shane, professor of law, the Ohio State University
“. . . a work of impressive scope, depth and sensitivity . . .”
―Harvey Freedenberg, bookreporter.com
“The reader’s delight is to follow Luxenberg as he intertwines [several] stories from widely singular strands at the beginning to their historical moments on the stage together in 1896 . . . [a] monumental work.”
―Y.S. Fing, The Washington Independent Review of Books
“In documenting this country’s fateful journey from slavery through thwarted Reconstruction to segregation, Luxenberg paints on a broad canvas, elegantly narrating several captivating and scrupulously researched stories that converge in Plessy v. Ferguson.”
―Steve Nathans-Kelly, The New York Journal of Books
“Steve Luxenberg’s interwoven narrative takes the story in a new direction, providing illuminating answers to fundamental questions. . . . A rich, complex, and all too human story, replete with ironies and unintended consequences. This is ‘big history,’ deeply researched and well-told.”
—From the J. Anthony Lukas Award Citation