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In his long and fascinating life, black activist and intellectual Max Yergan (1892-1975) traveled on more ground-both literally and figuratively-than any of his impressive contemporaries, which included Adam Clayton Powell, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, and A. Phillip Randolph. Yergan rose through the ranks of the "colored" work department of the YMCA, and was among the first black YMCA missionaries in South Africa. His exposure to the brutality of colonial white rule in South Africa caused him to veer away from mainstream, liberal civil rights organizations, and, by the mid-1930s, into the orbit of the Communist Party. A mere decade later, Cold War hysteria and intimidation pushed Yergan away from progressive politics and increasingly toward conservatism. In his later years he even became an apologist for apartheid.
Drawing on personal interviews and extensive archival research, David H. Anthony has written much more than a biography of this enigmatic leader. In following the winding road of Yergan's life, Anthony offers a tour through the complex and interrelated political and institutional movements that have shaped the history of the black world from the United States to South Africa.
"Anthony has done an admirable job making sense of the sometimes contradictory sources related to Yergan's life, and the scope of his research is truly remarkable."
-Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies
"Beautifully written and accessible . . . Max Yergan is a remarkable book which reflects prodigious and imaginative research. It is more than a biography; it is a walk through a variety of political and institutional movements that have substantially shaped the history of the black world, from the United States to South Africa."
-Robin D.G. Kelley,author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
"The multiple lives of the man David Anthony explores in these pages are fascinating, tragic, and remarkably little-known. The left-to-right journeys of many white American intellectuals are familiar, but the trajectory of this talented black man seems more dramatic than any of them: from mentor of a key African National Congress leader to enthusiastic backer of apartheid, from friend of Paul Robeson and target of FBI surveillance to someone eulogized in the National Review. Max Yergan's odyssey through the twentieth century is a prism through which to view an era's dreams and conflicts on four continents."
-Adam Hochschild,author of King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
"Anthony's fascinating biography of this 'world citizen in the Black Atlantic' sheds a good deal of light on the origins of Yergan's radical engagement in the 1930s and 1940s."
-Radical History Review
"As the title of this provocative work suggests, Max Yergan certainly is one of the more intriguing figures of the previous century. . . . This biography includes a particularly strong bibliography and a detailed index."
-Gerald Horne,Journal of American History