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, please scroll down  — and also see The University of North Carolina Press page devoted to it.)

 

 

Please note:

On the bottom of page 27 of the first two editions of the book, this sentence appears:

“He also ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor of the city and was always addressed by that title by the Round Table boys.”

In subsequent printings it will be corrected to this:

“He also campaigned enthusiastically for candidates seeking higher office on the Single-Tax platform.”

-Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, August 2020

 

 

 

Reviews

"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."

Joseph Epstein, 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

See All Reviews

Speaking

Events

Dec 04, 2020

Scheduled: Evening Zoom talk with The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, New York City. Details to follow!

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
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Oct 30, 2016

College of Charleston, Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program
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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
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Mar 16, 2016

Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries
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Mar 03, 2016

Jewish Federation of Greater Portland
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Dec 04, 2015

Scholar in Residence, Congregation Beit Haverim
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Oct 29, 2015

No Alibis Bookstore
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Oct 19, 2015

Columbia Jewish Book Festival
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Oct 06, 2015

Special Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library
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Sep 30, 2015

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Oct 01, 2015

Temple Sinai
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Jun 02, 2015

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Jun 01, 2015

The Regulator Bookshop
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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
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May 13, 2015

Congregation Beth Israel
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