"We have sought," write Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster, "to distinguish our story from other histories by holding each chapter up to a litmus test: Have we looked at this time from the perspective of someone who lived through it? And in doing so, have we captured a sense not only of the events of a particular era, but of the mood, the prevailing attitudes?" Thus, the experiences of ordinary men and women come to life in sidebars that appear throughout The Century. Sharpe James, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, recalls the sense of excitement and possibility he felt when Jackie Robinson became the first black ballplayer in the major leagues. Gilles Ryan remembers what it was like to be a high-school student in Dayton, Tennessee, during the Scopes Trial. Connie Chang talks about emigrating to the United States from Korea and establishing a liquor store in Los Angeles, only to have it destroyed in the civil unrest.
Comparisons to Harold Evans's The American Century are, perhaps, inevitable, but in addition to the emphasis on ordinary lives, The Century is further distinguished by the effective use of color photography (as well as several black-and-white shots). The book's sweeping narrative, shaped by Jennings and Brewster's comprehensive text, also flows a bit more smoothly than Evans's telegraphic prose; one can almost imagine Jennings reciting from these pages as he hosts the ABC/History Channel documentaries to which this book is a companion piece. [via]