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manic depression and struggled against it, but lacked the medical resources or support to defend himself. That’s how Cole met Stearns, in 1985, at the U.T.Medical Branch in Galveston, where Cole is a humanities/history professor and Steams was a patient. This was a difficult book to write. Cole is the author of a distinguished book on the history of aging, but the history of civil rights and the particular demands of an activist’s biography were new to him. Stearns, who spent most of his life in Galveston and is now sixty-six, kept telling his story over and over to anyone who would listenbut for decades, people who didn’t know him figured his tales of civil rights leadership were the ravings of a madman. Cole listened. To Cole’s and Steams’ credit, they handled well a difficult and stormy twelve-year relationship, and we are the primary beneficiaries of their partnership. This is a very well-written book and a fascinating story. Frankly, I wish the story were different. It’s not that resistance fighters have to be larger than life. George Lipsitz’s biography of Ivory Perry, A Life in the Struggle, includes the warts of Perry’ s personal life. But so much of contemporary discourse pathologizes the poor and people of color without justification; Cole’s book, and Stearns’ story, are about real pathology. Stearns was devastated by his disease and, black and poor, he was without the resources to address it. Cole’s knowledge of and sensitivity to psychological issues appropriately informs Stearns’ story, and does so in a manner uncommon to most historical writing. For my taste, however, Cole is occasionally too quick to psychologize social issues and problems. In a powerful final chapter, he offers some very interesting psychological explanations for his own, identification with Steams and the oppressed. He seems especially apologetic about his own liberalism, about being sympathetic and interested in Stearns, about thinking Steams’ biography is an important history, worth telling. I’m impressed with Cole’s honesty and intellectual courage, just as I am with Steams’ activism, ability to survive, and determination to tell his story. Cole finds the primary roots of his liberalism in his father’s premature death, and his mother’s response to her loss. These experiences certainly con tributed, especially on an emotional level, to Cole’s political attitudes. I think those attitudes also come from humane values, from political experience, and from contemporary objective conditions. I worry when I hear that politics are primarily rooted in psychological experience. I wonder not why Cole was interested in Steams or civil rights, but why so many others were not, including all those doctors and health professionals to whom Steams told his story. Society is becoming more and more unequal, more callous to the less fortunate, more interested in “just us” than justice. Better answers to the motives of not only liberals but conservatives and reactionaries rest less with psychology and more with class, race, and political economy. Steams knows this. So does Cole. They both have furthered the cause by illuminating the ups and downs of black activism in Houston and Texas. Quibbles aside, it’s a valuable book. Bob Fisher is a professor in Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Houston. CLASSIFIEDS ORGANIZATIONS THE TEXAS OBSERVER is seeking volunteers to help with a variety of tasks. Volunteers need not live in Austin. If you can spare some time, call WORK for single-payer National Health Care. 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