Cohodas, Nadine 1949(?)–
Cohodas, Nadine 1949(?)–
CAREER: Journalist for News and Observer, both Raleigh, NC, and for Congressional Quarterly, Washington, DC.
The Band Played Dixie: Race and the Liberal Conscience at Ole Miss, Free Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Nadine Cohodas has written books about politics and civil rights in the South and about people influential in blues music. Her first book, Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change, focuses on the political career of Thurmond, who held a seat in the U.S. Senate for more than four decades. Cohodas provides a portrait of the controversial political figure who once fought against both civil rights and integration. The author traces Thurmond's career back to when he began working as a schoolteacher and then ran for political office as a county school superintendent in South Carolina. She goes on to outline his time as a judge and his heroics in World War II and them moves on to his victory in the 1946 South Carolina governor's race. In addition to examining his election to the U.S. Senate his battle against civil rights, the author delves into the role Thurmond played in the Democratic southern revolt of the late 1940s. The disagreement developed because of southern Democrats' growing concern about granting civil rights to African Americans, resulting in a dominant Republican presence in the formerly Democrat Party-dominated South.
"Cohodas doggedly traces the highlights and low lights of Thurmond's career, and skillfully laces the narrative with vignettes and details from the history of South Carolina, the South, and the civil rights movement," wrote Daniel Gross in Washington Monthly. Thomas Byrne Edsall, writing in the New Republic, noted that the author "has written a thorough and generally sympathetic account of Thurmond's political history." Commenting that "Cohodas has done us a service by assembling the raw materials" of Thurmond's life and career, Reason contributor John Shelton Reed went on to write that the author "gives us one of the best summaries available of the legal and legislative struggle for the civil rights of black Southerners."
In The Band Played Dixie: Race and the Liberal Conscience at Ole Miss Cohodas peers into the history of race relations at the University of Mississippi, beginning with the enrollment of the university's first black student, James Meredith, in 1962. The author, who also provides a brief history of the University of Mississippi, interviewed more than a hundred people involved in the various events that she writes about. "The Band Played Dixie describes how Mississippi's black community and a few sympathetic whites, through the Civil Rights Movement and the federal government, challenged those traditions by forcing Ole Miss to admit black students, then hire black faculty and staff from the 1960s on," related Hayward Farrar in the Journal of Negro History. Farrar went on to call the book "a detailed and moving account" and "a valuable addition to the literature of school desegregation." J.O. Baylen, who taught at the university during the racially troubled era, wrote in the Mississippi Quarterly that "Cohodas's study evokes some positive and negative memories and offers a good perception of what happened during those troubled decades." Calling the author "eminently fair," Baylen also wrote that the effort is "an important book whose value is augmented by an excellent bibliography, clarity in style, and a fine index."
Cohodas turned from civil rights to music for her book Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records. Here the author tells the story of Polish immigrants Leonard and Phil Chess, who would be partners for many years in the famous Chess Records recording studios. After working briefly in Chicago with their father in the junk business, the brothers opened a lounge that rural blacks commonly visited. Through contact with their clientele, the Chess brothers learned about Southern black blues music and decided to start Chess Records. With their new company, they set out to record and sell records that would introduce many listeners to such blues masters as Muddy Waters and to early rock pioneers such as Bo Diddly. Although Chess Records was successful in bringing this music to a wider audience, the author recounts that rumors have long persisted that the white Chess Brothers took advantage of their black stars. The author "sensitively explores the complicated dynamic between the Jews who dominated the early 'indie' music business and the black performing artists," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. Dan Bogey, writing in Library Journal, called the book an "essential purchase for any serious popular music collection." Booklist contributor Mike Tribby commented that the author tells this "ethnic stew" of a story "patiently, enticingly, and fully."
Cohodas maintains her blues theme with her biography Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington. Her she relates the life story of the noted singer, who was first well known among black audiences and became a crossover star nearly forty years after her death before the age of forty. "Cohodas aims to remind us how much the singer meant, and could still mean," wrote Ricky Wright in the Seattle Weekly. "Digging deep into session lore, she also examines the reality of a woman who was at once a glamorous star and a road dog who put tens of thousands of miles on cars each year." Writing on the BookPage Web site, Ron Wynn called the biography "the first truly comprehensive volume on the late singer" and attested that the author "ably illuminates the quirks and contradictions of Washington's personality." In the Washington Post Book World Valerie Boyd commented that the biography "will likely spur the uninitiated to explore the underappreciated singer's lovely recordings." Zakia Munirah Carter, writing in Black Issues Book Review, concluded that"Cohodas's biography is meaty and fluidly written."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Austin Chronicle, December 3, 2004, Jay Trachtenberg, review of Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington.
Booklist, May 15, 2000, Mike Tribby, review of Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records, p. 1717; August, 2004, Ray Olson, review of Queen, p. 1888.
Boston Globe, September 8, 2004, Renee Graham, review of Queen.
Essence, October, 2004, Janice K. Bryant, review of Queen, p. 146.
Journal of Negro History, winter, 1998, Hayward Farrar, review of The Band Played Dixie: Race and the Liberal Conscience at Ole Miss, p. 82
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2004, review of Queen, p. 614.
Library Journal, May 1, 2000, Dan Bogey, review of Spinning Blues into Gold, p. 115; August, 2004, Harold V. Cordry, review of Queen, p. 82.
Mississippi Quarterly, winter, 1998, J.O. Baylen, review of The Band Played Dixie, p. 139.
New Republic, April 5, 1993, Thomas Byrne Edsall, review of Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change, p. 35.
New York Review of Books, June 23, 2005, David Hajdu, review of Queen.
Nieman Reports, fall, 1993, Jack Bass, review of Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change, p. 69.
Publishers Weekly, December 14, 1992, review of Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change, p. 44; March 17, 1997, review of The Band Played Dixie, p. 64; April 17, 2000, review of Spinning Blues into Gold, p. 63; July 5, 2004, review of Queen, p. 47.
Reason, June, 1993, John Shelton Reed, review of Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change, p. 60.
Seattle Weekly, October 20, 2004, Ricky Wright, review of Queen.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 9, 2000, Sean Piccoli, review of Spinning Blues into Gold.
Washington Monthly, March, 1993, Daniel Gross, review of Strom Thurmond and the Politics of Southern Change, p. 60; June, 1997, Jon Meacham, review of The Band Played Dixie, p. 53.
Washington Post Book World, September 5, 2004, Valerie Boyd, review of Queen.
Black Issues Book Review Online, http://www.blackissuesbookreview.com/ (May 10, 2006), Zakia Munirah Carter, review of Queen, p. 40.
BookPage, http://www.bookpage.com/ (November 10, 2005), Ron Wynn, review of Queen.
CNN Web site, http://www.cnn.com/ (September 8, 2000), review of Spinning Blues into Gold.
Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington Web site, http://www.dinahthequeen.com/ (November 10, 2005).
Spinning Blues into Gold Web site, http://www.bluestogold.com/ (November 10, 2005).