To the Editor, New York Times

Dear Sir:

The saga of sloppy journalism continues. Two writers who regularly contribute to your pages--John Leland and John Strausbaugh--have produced books dealing with black/white culture. Leland's Hip: the History (2004) and Strausbaugh's Black Like You (2006) recount the story of musician Dan Emmett, and the authorship of "Dixie." Both attribute that song to Ben and Lew Snowden, black musicians "who stepped forward to claim credit." [The authors] are referring to Howard and Judith Sacks' thesis, as published in their Way Up North in Dixie: A Black Family's Claim to the Southern Anthem (1993).

The Sacks do not have evidence that the Snowden brothers claimed "Dixie," [but] carefully write that OTHERS thought that the Snowdens "taught Emmett Dixie." The point is disputed, but the issue here is that Leland and Strausbaugh cite as their proof a REVIEW of SACKS' BOOK. Lazy? Arrogant? You bet. What is more, Strausbaugh MISREPRESENTS [Sacks'] REVIEWER, Norm Cohen. Nothing in Cohen's review supports Strausbaugh's telling of it.

At the very least, Strausbaugh owes Cohen an apology.

Lorle Porter, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita
Muskingum College
New Concord, Ohio

October, 2006

Politics & Peril  |  A Letter to Mr. John Strausbaugh, author of BLACK LIKE YOU