A Saving Remnant

Duberman, Martin. A Saving Remnant: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds. New York: The New Press, 2011. Hardcover. 336pp. $27.95. ISBN: 9781595583239.

Martin Duberman, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in History at CUNY Graduate Center and founder of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY, puts his deep understanding of American and queer history into play in this beautifully researched and written story of two radical activists.

Barbara, born in 1917, and David, born in 1929, were both part of “a saving remnant,” which Duberman says refers to “that small number of people neither indoctrinated nor frightened into accepting oppressive social conditions… They attempt, with uneven degrees of success, to awaken and mobilize others to join in the struggle for a more benevolent, egalitarian society.”

Barbara and David spent their lives addressing issues of civil rights, nonviolence, nuclear disarmament, the Vietnam War, and the struggle for gay rights. Friends for many years, they shared many viewpoints and experiences, including the fact that they were “out” in an era when that was a rare and dangerous act. But they were often in disagreement over strategy and theory, and this is where Duberman’s detailed and thorough research elevates the personal story of two inspirational activists into an important work of American political history.

If you only read/purchase one book on queer history this year, let it be this accessible and illuminating volume. It belongs in every collection that examines the United States, our history, our politics, and our future.

Reviewed by, Morgan Gwenwald
SUNY New Paltz


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