Stanley Meisler

Stanley Meisler - author of Shocking Paris: Soutine, Chagall and the Outsiders of Montparnasse, Kofi Annan: A Man of Peace in a World of War, United Nations : A History  and When The World Calls: The Inside Story Of The Peace Corps And Its First Fifty Years. Meisler served as a Los Angeles Times  foreign and diplomatic correspondent for thirty years, assigned to Nairobi, Mexico City, Madrid, Toronto, Paris, Barcelona, the United Nations and Washington. He continued to contribute articles to the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Sunday Opinion and Art sections and wrote a Commentary for his website. Meisler began his journalism career in 1953 as a reporter for The Middletown Journal (Ohio) and went on to work as a reporter with the Associated Press from 1954 to 1964. He was deputy director of the Office of Evaluation and Research of the Peace Corps in Washington before joining the Los Angeles Times in 1967. For many years, Meisler contributed articles to leading American magazines including Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The Nation, the Reader’s Digest, the Quarterly Journal of Military History, and the Columbia Journalism Review. While most of these articles focus on foreign affairs and political issues, he contributed more than thirty articles on artists and art history to the Smithsonian Magazine. Meisler passed away in 2016.

"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure"
Dr. Samuel Johnson
(1709 - 1784)

Letter from Washington [1959]

Letter from Washington [1959]

Letter from Washington [1959]

Letter from Washington [1959]

Letter from Washington [1959]

August 29, 1959
August 1959
Letter from Washington [1959]
A potful of hot water gurgled down on us as we waited, caught in a giggling, shoving crowd, outside Washington’s Coffee ‘n Confusion Club, a beatnik haven marking its first Saturday night of business in the nation’s capital. An irate neighbor in an upstairs apartment had tossed out the hot but not boiling water. The sprinkles from above alighting on the sprinkle of beards in the crowd symbolized one of the oddest clashes in the history of this clash-ridden federal town. For several months now, the prudery of Washington has been at war with the rebellion of its youth. The war started when a 24-year-old self-styled poet, William A. Walker, decided to open his club. Following the style of shops in San Francisco’s North Beach, it would sell coffee, pastries, biscuits, cream cheese, bagels and poetry...

Breakup in Nigeria

Breakup in Nigeria

Breakup in Nigeria

Breakup in Nigeria

Breakup in Nigeria

October 9, 1967
October 1967
Breakup in Nigeria
Two simple posters explain the civil war in Nigeria. The first, a thin strip, was glued to the walls and windows of most public buildings in Enugu, the capital of Eastern Nigeria, a few weeks before the region seceded on May 30 to become the Republic of Biafra. The poster shows four men. Three look alike, obviously Ibos, the dominant tribe of the east. The fourth man is a Hausa from Northern Nigeria. “This Is Your Region,” the poster says, “Report Any Strange Face to the Police.” The second poster, a little larger and more colorful, was slapped all over Lagos, the federal capital of Nigeria, a few weeks before federal troops invaded Biafra on July 6, the beginning of the civil war. This poster shows a monstrous drawing of the severed head of Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu, the ruler of Biafra, lying under the heavy combat boot of a Nigerian soldier. “Crush Rebellion,” the poster says...

The Southern Segregationist and His Anti-Semitism

The Southern Segregationist and His Anti-Semitism

The Southern Segregationist and His Anti-Semitism

The Southern Segregationist and His Anti-Semitism

The Southern Segregationist and His Anti-Semitism

The Southern Segregationist and His Anti-Semitism
DESPERATE AND TENSE, the Southern segregationist swings hard, not looking at his club. As he battles for a way of life, he grabs whatever he can, and too often at hand is a weapon tinged with anti-Semitism. The fervent battle against Negro rights in the South has brought with it a subtle but powerful spread of hatred for the Jew. Few segregation groups have policies that include anti-Semitism. Most openly avow the opposite. But their criterion for propaganda is only that it attack the Negro and help keep him separated. This has left the field open for the hate drummer. He has discovered that his literature and speeches, filled with anti-Jewish sentiments, will be used as long as anti-Negro remarks are included too. For example, Robert B. Patterson, executive secretary of the Mississippi Citizens Councils, once issued a list of organizations from which segregationists might obtain reading material. “Some of these groups are anti-Semitic,” wrote Patterson, adding: However, all of the religious groups, including the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish - have been pushing the anti-segregation issue and it is time for all of us to speak out for separation of the black and white races, regardless of our race or creed. But Patterson’s comments were too blatantly unclever...

Coming Home to Find a Smug, Scared America

Coming Home to Find a Smug, Scared America

Coming Home to Find a Smug, Scared America

Coming Home to Find a Smug, Scared America

Coming Home to Find a Smug, Scared America

June 4, 1989
June 1989
Coming Home to Find a Smug, Scared America
You can hear the moments of boredom tick away whenever you tell Americans that no other industrialized democracy has the same dispiriting problems as the United States--not the crime, not the guns, not the homeless, not the unschooled, not the poor, not the racism, not the ugliness. Listeners may mimic interest for a short while, then their glances roll up and away. They may not doubt me but, content in smugness, they do not care. After 21 years as a foreign correspondent, I returned home late last year to a country bristling with astonishing problems, most left untended. Yet many Americans persist in believing that their country has a divine mission on Earth, a model for all others. Ignorance about the rest of the world seems total. Our son set off for high school the other day in a T-shirt emblazoned with a bust of Lenin. I jokingly warned him to be careful. “Don’t worry,” he said, cynically not jovially, “no one at school knows who he is.” Few if any peoples can boast as much democracy and energy as Americans. These are wondrous gifts that foreigners can hardly fathom. Yet I often wonder now to what purposes they are put...

The Future of Tom Mboya

The Future of Tom Mboya

The Future of Tom Mboya

The Future of Tom Mboya

The Future of Tom Mboya

February 14, 1963
February 1963
The Future of Tom Mboya
For most Americans, one dynamic young man, Tom Mboya of Kenya, symbolizes the onrush of African nationalism in the last few years. On his several trips to the United States, he has been publicized in rallies, television shows, and newspaper interviews. He is, for America, the magazine cover boy of Africa. But despite all the American cheers, Mboya is in deep political trouble at home, and some of the trouble stems from those very cheers. Mboya has qualities that appeal to western taste. He is vigorous. He is efficient. He is moderate, though always frank and direct, in his speech. He seems to combine the shrewdness of a politician with the honor of a statesman. Even the British settlers in Kenya, long displeased with the American encouragement of Mboya, have now come to regard him as a main hope for their survival when the colony becomes independent, perhaps some time this year or next. They trust him and would help him. The vision of an independent Kenya led by Mboya has replaced their shattered dream of a white man's Kenya. But Mboya, now thirty-two, will not be at the helm when Kenya becomes independent...

Kennedy Proposes Civil Rights Reforms, Calls on Congress to End 'National Shame'

Kennedy Proposes Civil Rights Reforms, Calls on Congress to End 'National Shame'

Kennedy Proposes Civil Rights Reforms, Calls on Congress to End 'National Shame'

Kennedy Proposes Civil Rights Reforms, Calls on Congress to End 'National Shame'

Kennedy Proposes Civil Rights Reforms, Calls on Congress to End 'National Shame'

June 20, 1963
June 1963
The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA)
Kennedy Proposes Civil Rights Reforms, Calls on Congress to End 'National Shame'
President Kennedy asked members of Congress on Wednesday to look into their hearts and help end "rancor, violence, disunity and national shame" by passing the most sweeping civil rights bill since Reconstruction days. And he told them to stay in session this year until they do so. His proposals drew a favorable reaction in Congress. But Southerners served notice of a filibuster and threatened to tie up his entire legislative program. Liberal forces in both parties praised the proposals. But key Republicans who may hold the balance of power took a cautious approach. The President's plea came in a special message that accompanied a bill brimming with weapons against racial discrimination in stores, hotels and other public places, in schools, in jobs, in polling booths. He asked for a law banning discrimination by any privately owned enterprise that serves the public. He asked power for the Attorney General to start school desegregation court suits on his own. He asked for a massive program to train unskilled Negroes and others for higher paying jobs. He asked for the right to withhold Federal aid from a project when local officials discriminate against Negroes. He asked for much other legislation. And, in a real sense, he may have asked for one of the great legislative battles in American history...

Congressmen Appear Immune to Cry of Conflict of Interest

Congressmen Appear Immune to Cry of Conflict of Interest

Congressmen Appear Immune to Cry of Conflict of Interest

Congressmen Appear Immune to Cry of Conflict of Interest

Congressmen Appear Immune to Cry of Conflict of Interest

June 9, 1963
June 1963
The Birmingham News (Birmingham, AL)
Congressmen Appear Immune to Cry of Conflict of Interest
Sometimes a Congressman casts a vote that eventually puts money in his own purse. If he found someone else in government making a self-serving decision like that, the congressman would arch his brow, pound his fist and bellow. The cry of "conflict of interest" would resound against the walls. But no one, or at least hardly any one, arches, pounds, or bellows when the congressman casts his vote. There are 535 members of Congress. Of these, 315 are lawyers, some still allied with active, lucrative law firms representing a host of different clients. Thirty-three congressmen have some form of interest in banks, trust companies, or savings & loan associations. Twenty-three congressmen or their families have some sort of interest in radio or television stations. A handful of members are farmers, voting on farm legislation. Far more than a handful own stocks, sometimes in heavy amounts, in interests ranging from oil to soda water...

An Old Jewish Joke

An Old Jewish Joke

An Old Jewish Joke

An Old Jewish Joke

An Old Jewish Joke

November 18, 2015
November 2015
An Old Jewish Joke
There is an old Jewish joke about a religious man shipwrecked on a desert island. When his rescuers arrive a couple of years later, they discover he has built three huts during his isolation. One is his home. The other two? “This is the synagogue I go to,” he explained, “and that is the one I don’t go to.” The joke is supposed to reflect the disputatious nature of Jews — you can’t put two in the same room without expecting an argument, you can’t even put one alone without the same argument. Since a joke makes you laugh, this one is supposed to reflect the lighthearted nature of the disputes — they never cause lasting pain. Jews argue with each other but, in the end, always love each other...

Little Rock Negroes Deny They Don't Want Integration

Little Rock Negroes Deny They Don't Want Integration

Little Rock Negroes Deny They Don't Want Integration

Little Rock Negroes Deny They Don't Want Integration

Little Rock Negroes Deny They Don't Want Integration

September 15, 1957
September 1957
The Tyler Courier-Times (Tyler, Texas)
Little Rock Negroes Deny They Don't Want Integration
The balding, stocky white man pointed a finger excitedly. "You newsmen are missing the real story," he said. "The negroes don't want integration any more than we white folks do. Why don't you talk to them. Pick out any group. You'll find out what I know." The Associated Press followed the suggestion of the man in the angry crowd at Central High, the school kept segregated by Gov. Orval Faubus and the National Guard. But the results did not show what the segregationist said he knew. Nineteen negroes were interviewed, some in their homes, some at their jobs. They were rich and poor, with elegant furniture and threadbare rugs. Some spoke with college accents, others mumbled. A few were grandmothers, two were old maids. One man shoveled dirt for a plumber, another headed a large school...

The Young British Envoy and Old Friend Jack

The Young British Envoy and Old Friend Jack

The Young British Envoy and Old Friend Jack

The Young British Envoy and Old Friend Jack

The Young British Envoy and Old Friend Jack

May 19, 1963
May 1963
The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, MO)
The Young British Envoy and Old Friend Jack
The dark lean man joins President Kennedy. They chat on the yacht, Honey Fitz, at Palm Beach. They laugh during the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. They applaud a performance of "Irma la Douce" at Washington's National theater. They dine at a private party in the White House. Their friendship and companionship is rare and near unprecedented in Washington. The lean man, a year younger than the President has a high forehead, long swept-back hair, and a sharp very British nose. He is Sir David Ormsby Gore, a friend of John F. Kennedy from younger, more carefree days. He is a politician. He is the heir of a nobleman. And he is the British ambassador to the United States. Traditionally a British ambassador should be a career diplomat, advanced in years, prim and proper in his dealings with the chief of state. Ormsby Gore is a politician in his first post as ambassador, the only political appointment in the entire British foreign service, 44 years old, and the constant companion of his old friend Jack, who happens to be chief of state...

Massive Negro Demonstration 'Only a Beginning'

Massive Negro Demonstration 'Only a Beginning'

Massive Negro Demonstration 'Only a Beginning'

Massive Negro Demonstration 'Only a Beginning'

Massive Negro Demonstration 'Only a Beginning'

August 29, 1963
August 1963
The Eugene Guard (Eugene, Oregon)
Massive Negro Demonstration 'Only a Beginning'
No Evidence of Any Effect on Congress - The historic civil rights march on Washington - massive and orderly and moving - has dramatized the wants of Negroes in America, but leaders still faced the task today of trying to turn drama into action. Speaker after speaker told the 200,000 Negro and white sympathizers massed in front of the Lincoln Memorial Wednesday that their demonstration was no more than a beginning. 'Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content,' said the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 'will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.' Demonstrators and their leaders made it clear that one sign of progress, in their view, would be congressional approval of President Kennedy's civil rights bill...

My Role In the Presidential Election of 1960

My Role In the Presidential Election of 1960

My Role In the Presidential Election of 1960

My Role In the Presidential Election of 1960

My Role In the Presidential Election of 1960

December 22, 2012
December 2012
My Role In the Presidential Election of 1960
While reading The Passage of Power, the fourth volume of Robert A. Caro’s formidable biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson, I found myself recalling my role in the election of 1960 when Senator John F. Kennedy defeated Vice President Richard Nixon for president. I was a junior member of the Washington staff of the Associated Press then but nevertheless landed some juicy assignments. Since my role has been ignored by biographers and historians, from Theodore H. White to Caro, I thought it might be helpful to set down some of the details...

The World of Bosch

The World of Bosch

The World of Bosch

The World of Bosch

The World of Bosch

March 1, 1988
March 1988
The World of Bosch
With his bizarre and fearsome images, the enigmatic master of apocalypse still speaks to us across five centuries. A half-millennium ago when Europe was moving out of the Middle Ages, Hieronymus Bosch, a prosperous painter and landowner in the duchy of Brabant in what is now the Netherlands, was widely admired as one of the cleverest, most pious, most perceptive, most apocalyptic masters of his times. He then slipped into several hundred years of obscurity. The symbolism and message of his terrifying masterpieces seemed bizarre and unsavory and even heretical. But he has been rediscovered in the 20th century. American tourists, who have little Bosch at home, now crowd through the museums of Europe to be awed by his great triptychs or to track down his smaller masterpieces...

***IN THEATRES NOW: watch Stanley Meisler
in the new Peace Corps documentary A Towering Task***

Stanley Meisler
1931-2016
obituaries: Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times

drawing of Stanley Meisler by Sidney Wissner
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