This is a good article. Follow the link for more information.

Nat Hentoff

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Nat Hentoff
Hentoff bio.jpg
Born Nathan Irving Hentoff
(1925-06-10)June 10, 1925
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died January 7, 2017(2017-01-07) (aged 91)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Columnist, historian, novelist, music critic
  • Miriam Sargent (m. 1950; div. 1950)
  • Trudi Bernstein (m. 1954; div. 1959)
  • Margot Goodman (m. 1959)

Nathan Irving "Nat" Hentoff (June 10, 1925 – January 7, 2017) was an American historian, novelist, jazz and country music critic, and syndicated columnist for United Media. Hentoff was a columnist for The Village Voice from 1958 to 2009.[1] Following his departure from The Village Voice, Hentoff became a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, continued writing his music column for The Wall Street Journal, which published his works until his death. He often wrote on First Amendment issues, vigorously defending the freedom of the press.

Hentoff was formerly a columnist for: Down Beat, JazzTimes, Legal Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Progressive, Editor & Publisher and Free Inquiry. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker, and his writings were also published in: The New York Times, Jewish World Review, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Commonweal, and Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo.

Early life

Hentoff was born on June 10, 1925, in a Jewish family in Boston, Massachusetts [2][3] the firstborn child of Simon, a traveling salesman, and Lena (née Katzenberg).[4][5] As a teen, he attended Boston Latin School[3][6] and worked for Frances Sweeney on the Boston City Reporter, investigating antisemitic hate groups. Sweeney was a major influence on Hentoff; his memoir, Boston Boy, is dedicated to her.[7][8] He received his Bachelor of Arts degree with highest honors, in 1946 from Northeastern University.[9][10][11] That same year he enrolled for graduate study at Harvard University.[9][11] In 1950, he attended Sorbonne University in Paris on a Fulbright Scholarship.[12]


Hentoff began his career in broadcast journalism while also hosting a weekly jazz program on Boston radio station WMEX.[13] In the 1940s, he hosted two radio shows on WMEX: JazzAlbum and From Bach To Bartók.[14] He continued to present a jazz program on WMEX into the early 1950s, and during that period was an announcer on the program Evolution of Jazz on WGBH-FM. By the late 1950s, he was co-hosting the program The Scope of Jazz on WBAI-FM in New York City.[15] He went on to write many books on jazz and politics.[3]

In 1952, Hentoff joined Down Beat magazine as a columnist,[16] and from 1953 through 1957, he was an associate editor.[9][17] He was fired in 1957 allegedly for trying to hire an African-American writer.[13][18]

Hentoff co-authored Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz by the Men Who Made It (1955) with Nat Shapiro.[3] The book features interviews with jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington.[14] Hentoff co-founded The Jazz Review in 1958,[3][14][19] a magazine that he co-edited with Martin Williams until 1961.[19] He also served as the A&R director of the short-lived jazz label Candid Records in 1960, which released albums by Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor and Max Roach, among others.[19][20]

Around the same time, Hentoff began freelance writing for publications like Esquire, Playboy, Harper's, The New York Herald Tribune, Commonweal, and The Reporter.[3] From 1958 to 2009, he wrote weekly columns on education, civil liberties, politics, and capital punishment, among other topics for The Village Voice.[3]

Hentoff wrote for many publications, including The New Yorker (1960–1986), The Washington Post (1984–2000), and The Washington Times.[3] He worked with the Jazz Foundation of America to help many American jazz and blues musicians in need.[14] He wrote many articles to draw attention to the plight of America's pioneering jazz and blues musicians, which were published in the Wall Street Journal[21] and The Village Voice.[22]

Beginning in February 2008, Hentoff was a weekly contributing columnist at[23] In January 2009, The Village Voice, which had regularly published Hentoff's commentary and criticism for fifty years, announced that he had been laid off.[3][24] He then went on to write for publications such as United Features, Jewish World Review, and The Wall Street Journal.[3] Hentoff joined the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, as a senior fellow in February 2009.[25][17]

In 2013, a biographical film about Hentoff, entitled The Pleasures of Being Out of Step explored his career in jazz and as a First Amendment advocate. The independent documentary, produced and directed by David L. Lewis,[26] won the Grand Jury prize in the Metropolis competition at the DOC NYC festival[27] and played in theaters across the country.[3]

Political views, commentary, and activism

Hentoff espoused generally liberal views on domestic policy and civil liberties, but in the 1980s, he began articulating more socially conservative positions—opposition to abortion, voluntary euthanasia, and the selective medical treatment of severely disabled infants.[28] Hentoff argued that a consistent life ethic should be the viewpoint of a genuine civil libertarian, arguing that all human rights are at risk when the rights of any one group of people are diminished, that human rights are interconnected, and people deny others' human rights at their peril.[28]

Social and individual freedoms

Hentoff was known as a civil libertarian, free speech activist,[29] anti-death penalty advocate, and anti-abortion advocate.[6][17] He was described in the American Conservative magazine as "the only Jewish, atheist, pro-life, libertarian hawk in America."[6]

While at one time a long-time supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hentoff became a vocal critic of the organization in 1999 for its advocacy of government-enforced university and workplace speech codes.[30] He served on the board of advisors for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, another civil liberties group.[31] Hentoff's book Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee outlines his views on free speech and excoriates those whom he feels favor censorship "in any form."[3]


Hentoff agitated against the Vietnam War and against the United States' participation in it, although as he stated he had been a "hardcore anti-communist" since the age of 15, he had "no illusions about the corrupt, undemocratic government of South Vietnam."[32] After the war's end, Hentoff, along with other Vietnam war dissidents such as Joan Baez, Ginetta Sagan of Amnesty International, and others repeatedly protested what he called "the horrifying abuses of human rights [committed] by the Vietnamese Communist regime."[32]

Middle East

Hentoff was a believer in the persistence of anti-semitism[33] and a supporter of the existence of the state of Israel. Yet, he often criticized Israeli policies, both on issues of domestic freedoms, such as the absence of due process for Palestinians,[34] and on issues of foreign policy, such as the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. His opposition to Israel's invasion of Lebanon led three rabbis to symbolically excommunicate Hentoff from the religion of Judaism.[35] He commented, "I would have told them about my life as a heretic, a tradition I keep precisely because I am a Jew."[35]

He was supportive of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[6][24]

"War on terror"

Hentoff was critical of the Clinton administration for the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.[36] He also criticized the Bush administration for "authoritarian" policies such as the Patriot Act and other civil liberties restrictions legislated through invoking the ostensible need for homeland security.

An ardent critic of the G. W. Bush administration's expansion of presidential power, in 2008 Hentoff called for the new president to deal with the "noxious residue of the Bush-Cheney war against terrorism". According to Hentoff, among the casualties of that "war" have been "survivors, if they can be found, of CIA secret prisons ('black sites'); victims of CIA kidnapping renditions; and American citizens locked up indefinitely as 'unlawful enemy combatants'".[37] He advocated the formal prosecution in court of members of the Bush administration, such as lawyer John Yoo, for war crimes.[38]

Presidential politics

Hentoff stated that while he had been prepared to enthusiastically support Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, his view changed after looking into Obama's voting record on abortion. During President Obama's first year, Hentoff praised him for ending policies of CIA renditions, but criticized him for failing to fully end George W. Bush's practice of "state torture" of prisoners.[39]

In a May 2014 column, titled "My Pro-Constitution Choice for President", Hentoff voiced his support for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's potential 2016 run for president. He cited Paul's support for civil liberties, particularly his stand against the indefinite detention clauses in the National Defense Authorization Act as well as his opposition to the Obama administration's use of drones against American citizens.[40] Hentoff later rescinded his endorsement of Paul in light of the senator's support for normalizing relations with Cuba and his failure to support the complete annulment of the Patriot Act.[41]

Awards and honors

Hentoff was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1972.[42] He won the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award in 1980 for his columns on law and criminal justice.[43] In 1983, he was awarded the American Library Association's Imroth Award for Intellectual Freedom.[43] In 1985, he received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the Northeastern University.[9][17] In 1995, he was honored with the National Press Foundation's Award in recognition of his lifetime distinguished contributions to journalism.[3][44][43] In 2004, Hentoff was named one of six NEA Jazz Masters by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, thus becoming the first nonmusician in history to win this award.[3] That same year, the Boston Latin School honored him as alumnus of the year.[45][46] In 2005, he was one of the first recipients of the Human Life Foundation's "Great Defender of Life" award.[47]

Personal life

Hentoff grew up attending an Orthodox synagogue in Boston. He recalled that as a youth, he would travel around the city with his father during the High Holidays to listen to various cantors and compare notes on their performances. He said cantors made "sacred texts compellingly clear to the heart," and he collected their recordings.[48] In later life, Hentoff was an atheist,[49][29] and has sardonically described himself as "a member of the Proud and Ancient Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists".[50][51] He expressed sympathy for Israel's Peace Now movement.[52]

Hentoff married three times, first to Miriam Sargent in 1950; the marriage was childless and the couple divorced that same year.[53] His second wife was Trudi Bernstein, whom he married on September 2, 1954, and with whom he had two children, Miranda and Jessica.[53] He divorced his second wife in August 1959.[53] On August 15, 1959, he married his third wife, Margot Goodman, with whom he had two children: Nicholas and Thomas.[53] The couple remained together until he died of natural causes at his Manhattan apartment on January 7, 2017.[6]





External video
Booknotes interview with Hentoff on Speaking Freely, October 19, 1997, C-SPAN


Edited volumes


  1. ^ Hentoff, Nat (7 January 2009). "Nat Hentoff's Last Column: The 50-Year Veteran Says Goodbye". Village Voice. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Swain, Carol (2003). Contemporary voices of white nationalism in America. Cambridge, UK New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-521-01693-3.  Note: this quote is from the authors' introductory essay, not from the interviews.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa McFadden, Robert D. (7 January 2017). "Nat Hentoff, Journalist and Social Commentator, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  4. ^ Current Biography Yearbook. 47. H. W. Wilson Co. 1986. pp. 221–222. Nathan Irving Hentoff was born in Boston, Massachusetts on 10 June 1925, the first-born child of Simon Hentoff, a haberdasher, and Lena [Katzenberg] Hentoff. 
  5. ^ Polner, Murray (1982). American Jewish Biographies (illustrated ed.). Facts on File. p. 168. ISBN 9780871964625. Nathan Irving Hentoff was born in Boston to Simon, a traveling salesman, and Lena (Katzenberg) Hentoff. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Nat Hentoff, journalist who wrote on jazz and civil liberties, dies at 91". The Washington Post. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  7. ^ Hentoff, Nat (2012). Boston Boy: Growing up with Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions. Paul Dry Books. ISBN 978-1-58988-258-4. 
  8. ^ "Ask the Globe". The Boston Globe. July 30, 1998. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Nat Hentoff". The Washington Post. 1998. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  10. ^ Applegate, Edd (2009). Advocacy Journalists: A Biographical Dictionary of Writers and Editors. Scarecrow Press. p. 99. ISBN 9780810869288. 
  11. ^ Finkelman, Paul (2013). Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties. Routledge. p. 760. ISBN 9781135947057. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Nat Hentoff, Renowned Columnist and Jazz Critic, Dead at 91". Rolling Stone. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Liberty legend Nat Hentoff dies at 91". WND. 7 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  14. ^ New York Times, July 3, 1958, p. 49.
  15. ^ Down Beat, February 8, 1952, p. 1.
  16. ^ a b c d "America Under Barack Obama: An Interview with Nat Hentoff". The Rutherford Institute. 11 December 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  17. ^ a b c "Nat Hentoff, columnist, critic and giant of jazz writing, dies aged 91". The Guardian. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  18. ^ a b c "Muere Nat Hentoff, histórico cronista del jazz". El Pais. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  19. ^ Jarrett, Michael (2016). Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis and Diana Krall. UNC Press Books. p. xxv. ISBN 978-1-4696-3059-5. 
  20. ^ Hentoff, Nat (15 January 2009). "How Jazz Helped Hasten the Civil-Rights Movement". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  21. ^ Hentoff, Nat (November 14, 2006). "Keeping Jazz Musicians Alive". Archived from the original on October 5, 2009. 
  22. ^ "WorldNetDaily – A Free Press for a Free People". Retrieved March 3, 2011. [permanent dead link]
  23. ^ a b "Having Writ for 50 Years, Hentoff Moves On From The Voice". The New York Times. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  24. ^ "Nat Hentoff Joins the Cato Institute". February 4, 2009. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  25. ^ Scheib, Ronnie (11 July 2014). "Film Review: 'The Pleasures of Being Out of Step'". Variety. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  26. ^ De Coster, Ramzi (21 November 2013). "'A World Not Ours' and 'The Pleasures of Being Out of Step' Take Home Grand Jury Prizes at DOC NYC". IndieWire. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  27. ^ a b "Nat Hentoff on Abortion". Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  28. ^ a b "Nat Hentoff, Memory Eternal". National Review. 7 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  29. ^ "ACLU better clean up its act". September 20, 1999. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  30. ^ Keene, David (9 January 2017). "A taste for authentic liberalism". The Washington Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  31. ^ a b "Vietnam's state terrorism", Jewish World Review by Nat Hentoff, 4 February 2002
  32. ^ "As I've said before, if a loudspeaker goes off and a voice says, 'All Jews gather in Times Square,' it could never surprise me." Amy Wilentz, in "How the War Came Home", New York, February 2012, quoting from a Nat Hentoff column in The Village Voice
  33. ^ "Due Process in Israel" by Nat Hentoff, The Washington Post, 26 June 1999
  34. ^ a b "Columnist Nat Hentoff, a secular rabbi excommunicated for his activism, dies at 91" by Hillel Italie, The Times of Israel, 8 January 2017
  35. ^ "Nat Hentoff Interview" (PDF). 
  36. ^ Nat Hentoff (November 12, 2008). "Caged Citizen Will Test President Obama". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on October 14, 2010. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  37. ^ Nat Hentoff (December 3, 2008). "Obama's First 100 Days". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on November 13, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  38. ^ Nat Hentoff (January 12, 2010). "George W. Obama". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on March 5, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  39. ^ Hentoff, Nat (20 May 2014). "My pro-Constitution choice for president". WorldNetDaily. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  40. ^ Strom, Ron (28 June 2015). "Recovering Nat Hentoff sounds off on Rand Paul". WorldNetDaily. Retrieved 28 June 2017. 
  41. ^ "List of Guggenheim Fellows". Guggenheim Fellowship. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  42. ^ a b c "Nat Hentoff". Cato Institute. 
  43. ^ Nat Hentoff (January 7, 2009). ""Nat Hentoff's Last Column", Village Voice, January 6, 2009". Archived from the original on February 14, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  44. ^ "Awards & Recognition". Boston Latin School. 
  45. ^ Hentoff, Nat (2010). At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene. University of California Press. p. 194. ISBN 9780520945883. 
  46. ^ Pattison, Mark (12 January 2017). "Nat Hentoff was self-described pro-life Jewish atheist". Catholic Herald. Archived from the original on 29 June 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  47. ^ Nat Hentoff, "The Soul Music of the Synagogue," The Wall Street Journal, August 24, 1985.
  48. ^ Joyce, Robert W. (Fall 1999). "PLLDF Century Dinner" (PDF). The Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund Newsletter. Retrieved 3 March 2016. 
  49. ^ "Having Writ for 50 Years, Hentoff Moves On from The Voice", New York Times, January 6, 2009.
  50. ^ Hentoff, Nat, John Cardinal O'Connor: at the Storm Center of a Changing American Catholic Church, p. 7 (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988)
  51. ^ "Nat Hentoff," in Murray Polner, American Jewish Biographies (New York: Facts on File, Inc., Lakeville Press, 1982), pp. 168–9.
  52. ^ a b c d Laurie Collier, Joyce Nakamura, eds. (1993). Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults: A Selection of Sketches from Something about the Author. 3. Gale Research. p. 1101. ISBN 978-0-8103-7384-6. 
  53. ^ a b c d e "Nat Hentoff, a jazz critic, free speech advocate, and 'Boston Boy' memoirist, dies at 91". Boston Globe. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  54. ^ Hentoff, Nat (1987). American Heroes: In and Out of School. Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0-385-29565-9. 
  55. ^ Hentoff, Nat (2004). The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance (illustrated, reprint ed.). Seven Stories Press. ISBN 978-1-58322-658-2. 
  56. ^ Hentoff, Nat (2004). American Music is (reprint ed.). Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81351-1. 
  57. ^ Hentoff, Nat (1968). Onwards!: a novel. Simon and Schuster. 
  58. ^ Hentoff, Nat (1968). I'm really dragged but nothing gets me down. Simon & Schuster. 
  59. ^ Hentoff, Nat (2001). The Nat Hentoff Reader. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81084-8. 
  60. ^ Baldwin, James; Nat, Hentoff (1969). Black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism (reprint ed.). R. W. Baron. 
  61. ^ Hentoff, Nat; McCarthy, Albert J. (1975). Jazz: New Perspectives on the History of Jazz by Twelve of the World's Foremost Jazz Critics and Scholars (illustrated, reprint ed.). Perseus Books Group. ISBN 978-0-306-80002-3. 

External links

Retrieved from ""
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia :
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Nat Hentoff"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA