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Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Timesby James Tracy and Amy Sonnie
Synopses & Reviews
THE STORY OF SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT AND LITTLE-KNOWN ACTIVISTS OF THE 1960s, IN A DEEPLY SOURCED NARRATIVE HISTORY
The historians of the late 1960s have emphasized the work of a group of white college activists who courageously took to the streets to protest the war in Vietnam and continuing racial inequality. Poor and working-class whites have tended to be painted as spectators, reactionaries, and, even, racists. Most Americans, the story goes, just watched the political movements of the sixties go by.
James Tracy and Amy Sonnie, who have been interviewing activists from the era for nearly ten years, reject this old narrative. They show that poor and working-class radicals, inspired by the Civil Rights movement, the Black Panthers, and progressive populism, started to organize significant political struggles against racism and inequality during the 1960s and 1970s. Among these groups:
+ JOIN Community Union brought together southern migrants, student radicals, and welfare recipients in Chicago to fight for housing, health, and welfare . . .
+ The Young Patriots Organization and Rising Up Angry organized self-identified hillbillies, Chicago greasers, Vietnam vets, and young feminists into a legendary “Rainbow Coalition” with Black and Puerto Rican activists . . .
+ In Philadelphia, the October 4th Organization united residents of industrial Kensington against big business, war, and a repressive police force . . .
+ In the Bronx, White Lightning occupied hospitals and built coalitions with doctors to fight for the rights of drug addicts and the poor.
Exploring an untold history of the New Left, the book shows how these groups helped to redefine community organizing—and transforms the way we think about a pivotal moment in U.S. history.
"A group of scraggly white men wearing Confederate flags showing up at a Black Panther convention might seem like an act of provocation, but in the summer of 1969 it was a gesture toward solidarity. The whites were members of the Young Patriots Organization, a small but significant vanguard of 'hillbilly' radicals willing to cross racial boundaries in the interest of class unity. Southern whites are often depicted as resisting civil rights or supporting racist political candidates; in this provocative and surprising history, activists Sonnie (Revolutionary Voices) and Tracy (editor of The Civil Disobedience Handbook) reveal the forgotten militancy of the 'poor and working-class whites who propelled racial justice rather than opposing it.' In derelict neighborhoods in Chicago, Philadelphia, or New York City, transplanted Southerners did not require outside agitation in order to become radicalized. The relentless pressures of the Vietnam War, the draft, street demonstrations, and racial violence gave momentum to such homegrown organizations as Rising Up Angry and White Lightning. Drawing their membership from 'gang kids and greasers,' they combined community organizing with direct action and had little use for 'middle-class intellectual bullshit.' By the late 1970s, their efforts — victims of the New Right and the FBI's counter-intelligence programs — had been largely suppressed, but this compelling narrative refutes any 'biased notions about poor whites as either hopelessly racist or reliant on the Left intelligentsia for a radical reeducation.' (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
This history of new left in the 1960s highlights the involvement of working class white people in the development of radical political organizations. Arguing against the popular conception that white involvement in civil rights, anti-war and social justice movements came primarily from the upper-middle classes, this volume explores grassroots organizations of working and marginalized white people working together across racial, political, and class lines to promote radical change. Sonnie and Tracy are long time political activists and writers. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The story of some of the 1960s’ most important activists—JOIN, the Young Patriots, Rising Up Angry, White Lightning, and the October 4th Organization—in a deeply sourced narrative history
The historians of the late 1960s have emphasized the work of a small group of white college activists as well as the Black Panthers, activists who courageously took to the streets to protest the war in Vietnam and continuing racial inequality. Poor and working-class whites have tended to be painted as spectators, reactionaries, and, even, racists. Most Americans, the story goes, just watched the political movements of the sixties go by.
James Tracy and Amy Sonnie, who have been interviewing activists from the 1960s for nearly ten years, reject this old narrative. In five tightly conceived chapters, they show that poor and workingclass whites, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panther Party, started to organize significant political movements against racism and inequality during the 1960s.
It’s an untold history of the New Left: challenging the Right for the allegiance of white workers, a diverse network of new political groups helped to redefine community organizing at a pivotal moment in the history of the United States, collaborating with their better known colleagues in SDS and the Black Panthers. These organizations kept the vision of an interracial movement of the poor alive by working arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King and the Puerto Rican Young Lords and, in so doing, gave rise to a generation of community organizers. In the best tradition of people’s history, Tracy and Sonnie bring these diverse and groundbreaking movements alive.
About the Author
Amy Sonnie is the editor of Revolutionary Voices, an anthology by queer and transgender youth (Alyson Publications, 2000), that has been banned by the Texas Youth Commission and by libraries in New Jersey and New York.
James Tracy is the founder of the San Francisco Community Land Trust. He has edited two activist handbooks: The Civil Disobedience Handbook and The Military Draft Handbook.
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