Friday, March 10, 2023

Christopher C. Gorham's "The Confidante"

"Christopher C. Gorham holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Tufts University and Syracuse University College of Law. After practicing law for over a decade, for the last several years he has taught Modern American History at Westford Academy, outside Boston. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Literary Hub, Paper Brigade Daily, and online publications.

Gorham applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Confidante: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Helped Win WWII and Shape Modern America, and reported the following:
Readers turning to page 99 of The Confidante will be immediately plunged into a tense stand-off in the Oval Office. Just months before Pearl Harbor, Americans—and President Franklin D. Roosevelt—knew war would eventually pull in the United States. In the summer before the surprise Japanese attack on Hawaii, the nation’s factories and shipyards were firing at full-bore, cranking out tanks, ordnance, jeeps, and ships. These were good-paying jobs, but they were limited to white workers.

The preeminent Black leader of the day, A. Philip Randolph, fed up with the discrimination, called for a march on Washington. FDR knew such a march would result in violence—an embarrassing unveiling of the American caste system right at the moment Americans needed to pull together to fight fascism. The President summoned Randolph to a meeting at the White House attended by the NAACP’s Walter White, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, and FDR’s top labor trouble-shooter, Anna Rosenberg.

“Something must be done now!” thundered Randolph after a bit of awkward chit-chat.

“Questions like this can’t be settled with a sledgehammer,” Roosevelt shot back. The impasse lasted an hour and left everyone in a sour mood. At that point the President directed Anna Rosenberg and the Black leaders to meet in the Cabinet room, where she was to draft an Executive Order that would persuade the civil rights leaders to call off the march.

The work she started that day became Executive Order 8802, which enforced equality in defense manufacturing, and was, in the words of historian Roger Daniels, “the first federal action against race discrimination since Reconstruction.” The march was called off; Randolph was seen as a hero by the Black press; and FDR had done what was morally right.

The show-down in the Oval office on page 99 reveals the deep trust Roosevelt had for Rosenberg. The woman he called his “Mrs. Fix-It” had done it again: she had quietly and tactfully solved a vexing problem for the President. During the war that was about to consume the USA, Anna Rosenberg would prove her worth to FDR—and to the nation—many more times.
Visit Christopher C. Gorham's website.

--Marshal Zeringue