Who was Harry Golden?

Harry Golden was a middle-aged, raspy-voiced, cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving Jewish raconteur from New York’s Lower East Side when he landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the eve of the civil rights movement. He spent the next three decades roasting the painful realities of segregation in the warmth of his wit, first in his improbably titled one-man newspaper, Carolina Israelite, and then in more than twenty books, five of which appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Golden was an irrepressible contrarian, both humanitarian and mountebank, and an old-fashioned newspaperman who blogged before blogs existed…

…We Americans love our storytellers and splashy showmen; Golden was both. He repackaged the hard past in more appealing wrappings; he brought the powerful and famous down to size and exalted plain people by preserving small but important moments in their lives. He explored some of the biggest themes a writer can put to paper—prejudice, dignity, and the daily struggle of the working person—with slices of real life, humorously rendered…

…Golden did all this by revealing rankly foolish and hateful manifestations of racism in everyday life, and he did it in his own paper, in hundreds of magazine articles, in radio interviews, in syndicated newspaper columns, and in millions of American living rooms as he traded witty one-liners with the likes of TV hosts Jack Paar and Johnny Carson…

…Golden was not a conventional newspaper editorialist, and he was most definitely not a model Jewish activist or member of the Jewish intelligentsia of his day, those writers and activists who dismissed the value of his work and looked down on the readers who pushed it onto the bestseller lists. Yet he managed something that most of the editorial pages and intellectuals of his day did not. He held on to his moral outrage over racism, believing that America could and would do better.

(For more about the book and about me, please scroll down and see The University of North Carolina Press page devoted to it.)

Scroll down for a list of speaking events, past and upcoming. Here is a link to a talk for the State Library of North Carolina about the book, civil rights, and the use of humor in activism.


"Hartnett is a superb writer who knows what can be produced when you research the past and learn what ‘regular people’ are reading."

Robert B. Stepto, reviewing for the Washington Post

"Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett’s biography of Harry Golden is, at 266 pages of text, the right length. She does not scant any of her subject’s faults and brings out his virtues."

The Wall Street Journal

"Hartnett has written a marvelous biography of a man with numerous and ambiguous American, Southern, and Jewish identities….It is a page-turner well worth the attention of scholars and laypeople."
"A superbly written, solidly researched book… will stand as a moving portrait of a man whose life and work, in Hartnett’s words, trace the ‘arc of the civil rights movement.’"

David Laskin, author of The Family: A Journey into the Heart of the 20th Century, in Seattle Times

"Most importantly, Hartnett places Golden’s life and work in historical context, drawing masterfully on a wide range of secondary sources to make an eloquent case that remembering Golden still has value 35 years after his death—especially as equal voting rights are again coming under attack."

Matt Buckingham in Willamette Week

"…This highly readable and recommended biography will be a welcome addition to public and university libraries, especially those with interests in Jewish American culture, the civil rights movement, and the American South."

Starred review in Library Journal, April 15, 2015

""Harry Golden was a world-class character, a masterful storyteller who used his quick wit and humor to ridicule southern segregation with outrageous but hilarious satire to carve out an improbable place in American and southern Jewish history. We can thank Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett for her well-researched biography, bringing to life for a whole new generation the man who wrote the smashing bestseller called "Only in America." "

–Eli N. Evans, author of The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South and other books.

"Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett’s fascinating new book, Carolina Israelite, reminds us of the old aphorism that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Written in sparkling prose and bristling with insight, her authoritative biography of Harry Golden reconstructs the extraordinary life of a Jewish ex-con from New York who, after resettling in North Carolina in 1941, became a best-selling author and a powerful voice for civil rights and social justice. The author’s gift for storytelling rivals that of her protagonist, and the book is a joy to read from start to finish."

Raymond Arsenault, author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

"…This highly readable and recommended biography will be a welcome addition to public and university libraries, especially those with interests in Jewish American culture, the civil rights movement, and the American South."

Starred review in Library Journal, April 15, 2015

See All Reviews

Speaking and Teaching (partial list)


Jan 09, 2024

"Writing Well is a Superpower," Emerging Leaders Workshop, NH Bankers Association/Community Bankers Association.

Jan 18, 2024

"The call of the wild (and the domestic): Writing about animals," online workshop, 5:30-7pm, Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, New Hampshire.

Sep 20, 2023

"Saving Lives – The Art of Writing about People," four-session in-person workshop series. (Ongoing)

Feb 01, 2023

"Arguing Well" -- Online classes in February on writing persuasive op-eds, guest columns, and other nonfiction. Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, New Hampshire.

May 25, 2022

"Powered by Humor: Harry Golden’s Civil Rights Blogging (before the internet existed)." Online talk for State Libraries of North Carolina, NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Feb 01, 2022

Online workshops in February: "Finding the Write-of-Way: Capturing your Journey in Words" and "If These Walls Could Talk: Preserving a House With Words," for Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, New Hampshire

Oct 06, 2021

"The joy of writing (and reading) about flawed heroes," online lecture, Laguna Booklovers, Laguna Niguel, CA

Apr 10, 2021

"Are you ready to write your book?" One-day online workshop for nonfiction writers.
Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, New Hampshire

Dec 04, 2020

Online Shabbat Cultural event, City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, NYC

Nov 30, 2017

Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL

Jan 31, 2017

Rose Schnitzer Manor
Cedar Sinai Park, Portland, OR

Jan 16, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee and Gordon Jewish Community Center, Nashville, TN

Jan 15, 2017

Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend service
Lee Chapel, AME Church, Nashville, TN

Oct 30, 2016

College of Charleston, Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program
Charleston, SC
Co-sponsored by the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture

Apr 06, 2016

Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
Philadelphia, PA

Mar 28, 2016

“Identity Construction: Writing Biographies and Memoirs,” with Reed College Professor and author Roger Porter
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, Portland OR

Mar 16, 2016

Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries
University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Mar 03, 2016

Jewish Federation of Greater Portland
Mittleman Jewish Community Center, Portland, OR

Dec 04, 2015

Scholar in Residence, Congregation Beit Haverim
Portland, OR

Oct 29, 2015

No Alibis Bookstore
Belfast, Northern Ireland

Oct 28, 2015

"One Man And His Very Small Newspaper...And Civil Rights in America," sponsored by Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Bridge American History Colloquium.

Oct 19, 2015

Columbia Jewish Book Festival
Katie & Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center, Columbia, SC

Oct 06, 2015

Special Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library
University of North Carolina-Charlotte

Sep 30, 2015

Fall For the Book Festival
Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia

Oct 01, 2015

Temple Sinai
Newport News, VA

Jun 02, 2015

Quail Ridge Books & Music
Raleigh, NC

Jun 01, 2015

The Regulator Bookshop
Durham, NC

May 27, 2015

Event sponsored by Jewish Community Center, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library,
the Levine-Sklut Judaic Library of the Jewish Community Center, and the Levine Museum of the New South, Charlotte, NC

May 19, 2015

University Bookstore
Seattle, WA

May 13, 2015

Congregation Beth Israel
Portland, OR


WFAE-Charlotte, NC, with Host Mike Collins

WCHL-Chapel Hill, NC, with host, syndicated columnist and broadcaster D.G. Martin

1490 WLOE/1420 WMYN-Rockingham County (NC) Radio with Host Mike Moore
Listen (interview starts at 2:35)

New Books Network with Jason Schulman