Male. Education: Vassar College, B.A.; Johns Hopkins University, M.A.
Office—School of Communication, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20016-8017. E-mail—[email protected]
Educator, writer, and commentator. American University, Washington, DC, associate professor of communication, 1995—. Widmeyer Group (public affairs firm), vice president; People for the American Way, director of research and strategic planning. Also worked as a speechwriter and press secretary for various politicians, the House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. Helsinki Commission; political analyst during campaigns and elections for numerous broadcast networks, including Cable News Network (CNN), Fox News, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), National Public Radio (NPR), and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS); HistoryNewsNetwork.org, advisory board member.
Faculty Member of the Year, American University, 1999 and 2001; Thomas P. Johnson Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Rollins College, 2000.
(With Barbara Diggs-Brown) By the Color of Our Skin: The Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.
The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Also contributor to books, including Campaigns and Elections American Style (2nd edition); The American Political System; Public Relations Cases; and Double Exposure II: Integration, Education and Race in America, Sharpe, 2000. Founding editor of Right Wing Watch newsletter; contributing editor to TomPaine.com. Contributor to numerous periodicals, Web sites, and journals, including the HistoryNewsNetwork.org, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, Atlanta Constitution, Baltimore Sun, Newsday, Christian Science Monitor, Seattle Times, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Salon.com, and Insight magazine.
Communications professor Leonard Steinhorn has spent his professional life, in addition to teaching, as a political consultant and commentator. At one point he was asked by White House staffers under President Bill Clinton to suggest ideas for the State of the Union Address. His professorial work, consulting, training in American history, and nonprofit civil rights work, have given Steinhorn firsthand experience of racial interactions within the United States. As a result he coauthored By the Color of Our Skin: The Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race. The book is a treatise on black-white integration in the United States, which, as the title indicates, the authors label a fallacy. In their book Steinhorn and Diggs-Brown refer to "virtual integration," which they define as the popular "belief that we are moving toward a color-blind nation." The authors thus state that there is no actual, tangible progress; there is only a theoretical one. For instance, while laws banning segregation and promoting equal rights have been enacted, neighborhoods and schools nevertheless remain divided along racial lines. The book posits that people's "overt demonstrations of racial harmony" and their "rejection of blatant bigotry" are incongruous to their "continuing resistance to living, learning, playing and praying together." This dichotomy prevents people from actually making progress toward a goal that may have been, in the authors' view, too ambitious from the start.
Given the controversial nature of the book, reviews of By the Color of Our Skin were decidedly mixed. Michael W. Lynch, writing in Reason, criticized the one-sidedness of the work: "The major weakness of Steinhorn and Diggs-Brown's book is their insistence on interpreting everything in the worst possible light." This sentiment was echoed by a Publishers Weekly critic who called the book a "pessimistic survey." However, Edward G. McCormack, writing in the Library Journal, described the book as "deeply researched, gracefully written and coherently argued." Booklist contributor Vernon Ford concurred, ultimately finding the book "provocative, eye-opening, and filled with arguments sure to start debate."
Following By the Color of Our Skin, Steinhorn published The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy, which Washington Monthly reviewer Jamie Malanowski called "a very sympathetic brief for the defense" of the Baby Boom generation. Steinhorn takes the opportunity to praise his own generation, noting that the so-called "Greatest Generation" that grew up in the World War II era, although great in many ways, lived in a country of racial, religious and sexual bigotry, while the Baby Boomers began the push for equality on all fronts, and took a hands-on interest in preserving the environment as well. Malanowski felt that Steinhorn overstates things a bit in giving exclusive credit for these accomplishments to Baby Boomers, finding him "entirely too forgiving of this generation's shortcomings." The critic did acknowledge, on the other hand, that the Baby Boomers deserve considerable commendation and that the author "does a matchless job of dishing it out." A Kirkus Reviews contributor, disagreed, however, and called The Greater Generation "a well-sung paean to the generation that took to the streets and demanded a different definition of truth, justice and the American way." Additionally, BookPage reviewer Edward Morris pointed out that "Steinhorn argues quite persuasively in The Greater Generation that it is the 'baby boomers,' … whose monumental good works have moved this country closest to its founding ideals."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Steinhorn, Leonard, and Barbara Diggs-Brown, By the Color of Our Skin: The Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race, Dutton (New York, NY),1999.
Booklist, January 1, 1999, Vernon Ford, review of By the Color of Our Skin, p. 807.
Insight on the News, March 29, 1999, Kim Asch, review of By the Color of Our Skin, p. 37.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2005, review of The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy, p. 1178.
Library Journal, February 15, 1999, Edward G. McCormack, review of By the Color of Our Skin, p. 169.
New York Times Book Review, February 21, 1999, Allen D. Boyer, review of By the Color of Our Skin, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, December 21, 1998, review of By the Color of Our Skin, p. 41; October 17, 2005, review of The Greater Generation, p. 52; October 25, 2005, Sarah F. Gold, "Boomers Rock! PW Talks with Leonard Steinhorn," p. 48.
Reason, December, 1999, Michael W. Lynch, review of By the Color of Our Skin, p. 63.
Washington Monthly, January-February, 2006, review of The Greater Generation, p. 48.
Washington Post, January 24, 2006, Jonathan Yardley, "The Big Boomer Theory," p. C01.
American University Web site,http://www.american.edu/ (March 31, 2006), biography of author.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (July 12, 2006), Edward Morris, "Boomer Power Is Still Flowering," review of The Greater Generation.