Nat Hentoff: Wikis


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Nat Hentoff
Born June 10, 1925 (1925-06-10) (age 84)
Boston, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Occupation columnist, historian, novelist, music critic

Nathan Irving "Nat" Hentoff (born June 10, 1925) is an American historian, novelist, jazz and country music critic, and syndicated columnist for United Media and writes regularly on jazz and country music for The Wall Street Journal.

Hentoff was formerly a columnist for Down Beat, The Village Voice, 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 writing has also been published in The New York Times, Jewish World Review, The Atlantic, The New Republic and Commonweal.


Early life

Hentoff was born in Boston, Massachusetts and graduated from the Boston Latin School. He was awarded his B.A. with the highest honors from Northeastern University and did graduate work at Harvard University. In 1950, he was a Fulbright fellow at the Sorbonne in Paris


Hentoff joined Down Beat magazine as a columnist in 1952.[1] From 1953 through 1957, he was an associate editor of Down Beat. In 1958, he co-founded The Jazz Review, a magazine that he co-edited with Martin Williams until 1961. His career in broadcast journalism began in the closing days of World War II on WMEX, a Boston radio station. Among his early assignments were live broadcasts of professional wrestling from the old Boston Arena. In the late 1940s, he hosted two notable radio shows on WMEX, "Jazz Album" and "From Bach To Bartok". Hentoff continued to do a jazz program on WMEX into the early 1950s, and during that period also was an announcer on WGBH-FM on a program called "Evolution of Jazz". By the late 1950s, Hentoff was co-hosting a program called "The Scope of Jazz" on WBAI-FM in New York City.[2]

In June 1955, Hentoff co-authored with Nat Shapiro Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz by the Men Who Made It. The book features interviews with some of the best-known names in jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Paul Whiteman. He went on to author numerous other books on jazz and politics.

On December 31, 2008, the Village Voice, which had regularly published Hentoff's commentary and criticism for fifty years, announced that he had been terminated.[3] In February, 2009, Hentoff joined the libertarian Cato Institute as a senior fellow.[4] In January of 2010 however Hentoff returned and wrote one article for the Voice.


Awards and honors

In 1972 Hentoff was named a Guggenheim Fellow.[5] He was awarded the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award in 1980 for his columns on law and criminal justice. In 1985 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws by Northeastern University.[6] In 1995 Hentoff was given the National Press Foundation's Award for lifetime distinguished contributions to journalism.[7] In 2004 Hentoff was named one of six NEA Jazz Masters by the US National Endowment for the Arts, the first non-musician to win this award. That same year, the Boston Latin School honored him as alumnus of the year. In October 2005, Hentoff was honored by the Human Life Foundation at their third annual Great Defender of Life dinner.

Humanitarian causes

In 2002 Nat Hentoff became a member of the Board of Directors of The Jazz Foundation of America.[8] He has worked with The Jazz Foundation to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians including musicians that survived Hurricane Katrina. Hentoff has written multiple articles about the Jazz Foundation of America for The Wall Street Journal,[9], and the Village Voice [10] bringing attention the plight of America's pioneering musicians of jazz and blues.

Personal politics

Hentoff is known as a civil libertarian, free speech activist, anti-death penalty advocate, pro-life advocate, and he is often critical of the ideological left. He also supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

While once a longtime supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hentoff has become a vocal critic of the organization for its advocacy of government-enforced university and workplace speech codes.[11] He serves on the board of advisors for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, another civil liberties group. Hentoff's book, Free Speech for Me — But Not for Thee, outlines his views on free speech and excoriates those who he feels favor censorship in any form.

Hentoff was critical of Bush Administration policies such as the Patriot Act and other civil liberties implications of the recent push for "homeland security." He was also strongly critical of Clinton Administration policies such as the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

In February 2003, Hentoff signed a letter circulated by Social Democrats, USA advocating the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq on human rights grounds, citing reports detailing Hussein's disregard for fundamental liberties. In March and April of that year Hussein was deposed by a US-led invasion, launching the ongoing Iraq war. In summer 2003, Hentoff wrote a column for the Washington Times in which he supported Tony Blair's humanitarian justifications for the war. He also criticized the Democratic Party for casting doubt on President Bush's pre-war assertions about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction in an election year.

Despite what are generally considered liberal views on domestic policy and civil liberties, starting in the 1980s Hentoff articulated positions opposed to abortion, voluntary euthanasia and the selective medical treatment of severely disabled infants.[12] Hentoff has said that shortly after he "came out" as an opponent of abortion, several of his colleagues at The Village Voice stopped speaking to him. Hentoff has sardonically described himself as "a member of the Proud and Ancient Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists".[3][13]

Hentoff was one of the people to seek to publicize Fistgate, and he vigorously criticized the judicial gag order involved in the case.[14]

In an April 2008 column, 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. While Hentoff states that he has supported pro-choice candidates in various elections despite his opposition to abortion, he found Obama's positions on the issue extreme, especially Obama's opposition to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and Born Alive Infant Protection Act.[15]



  • "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya", with Nat Shapiro (1955)
  • The Jazz Makers, with Nat Shapiro (1957)
  • The Jazz Life ISBN 0-306-80088-8 (1961)
  • Peace Agitator: The Story of A. J Muste ISBN 0-9608096-0-0 (1963)
  • The New Equality (1964)
  • Our Children Are Dying (with John Holt) (1967)
  • A Doctor Among the Addicts (1968)
  • A Political Life: The Education of John V. Lindsay (1969)
  • Journey into Jazz (1971)
  • Jazz Is (1976)
  • Does Anybody Give a Damn?: Nat Hentoff on Education Random House; (1977)
  • The First Freedom: The Tumultuous History of Free Speech in America (1980)
  • American Heroes: In and Out of School (1987)
  • John Cardinal O'Connor: At the Storm Center of a Changing American Catholic Church ISBN 0-684-18944-5 (1988)
  • Free Speech for Me — But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other ISBN 0-06-099510-6 (1993)
  • Listen to the Stories: Nat Hentoff on Jazz and Country Music ISBN 0-06-019047-7 (1995)
  • Living the Bill of Rights: How to Be an Authentic American ISBN 0-520-21981-3 (1999)
  • The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance ISBN 1-58322-621-4 (2004)
  • American Music Is (2004)
  • Insisting on Life (with Wesley Smith and Maria McFadden) (2005)


  • Jazz Country (1965)
  • Call the Keeper (1966)
  • Onwards! (1968)
  • I'm Really Dragged But Nothing Gets Me Down (1968)
  • This School is Driving Me Crazy (1976)
  • Does This School Have Capital Punishment? (1982)
  • Blues for Charlie Darwin (1982)
  • The Day They Came To Arrest The Book(1983)
  • The Man from Internal Affairs (1985)


  • Boston Boy: Growing Up With Jazz and Other Rebellious Passions ISBN 0-9679675-2-X (1986)
  • Speaking Freely: A Memoir (1997)


  • The Nat Hentoff Reader ISBN 0-306-81084-0 (2001)

Books edited

  • Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz by the Men Who Made It (with Nat Shapiro) (1955)
  • Jazz: New Perspectives on the History of Jazz ISBN 0-306-80088-8 (with Albert McCarthy) (1959)
  • Black Anti-Semitism and Jewish Racism (1969)


  1. ^ Down Beat, Feb. 8, 1952, p. 1
  2. ^ [The New York Times], July 3, 1958, p. 49
  3. ^ a b "Having Writ for 50 Years, Hentoff Moves on from The Voice, New York Times, Jan. 6, 2009
  4. ^ Nat Hentoff Joins the Cato Institute
  5. ^ List of Guggenheim Fellows
  6. ^ Hentoff, Nat, Listen to the Stories: Nat Hentoff on Jazz and Country Music, "About the Author" (HarperCollins 1995)
  7. ^ "Nat Hentoff's Last Column" Village Voice, Jan. 6, 2009
  8. ^ 2009-13-10. URL: Accessed: 2009-13-10. (Archived by at
  9. ^ 2009-13-10. URL: Accessed: 2009-13-10. (Archived by at
  10. ^ 2009-13-10. URL: Accessed: 2009-13-10. (Archived by at ht tp://
  11. ^ ACLU better clean up its act
  12. ^ Nat Hentoff on Abortion
  13. ^ Hentoff, Nat, John Cardinal O'Connor: at the Storm Center of a Changing American Catholic Church, p. 7 (Charles Scribner's Sons 1988)
  14. ^ reposting of Hentoff's statement in September 2000
  15. ^ "Infanticide Candidate for President". 2008-04-24. 

External links


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