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Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the Northby Thomas J. Sugrue
Synopses & Reviews
The struggle for racial equality in the North has been a footnote in most books about civil rights in America. Now this monumental new work from one of the most brilliant historians of his generation sets the record straight. Sweet Land of Liberty is an epic, revelatory account of the abiding quest for justice in states from Illinois to New York, and of how the intense northern struggle differed from and was inspired by the fight down South.
Thomas Sugrue’s panoramic view sweeps from the 1920s to the present–more than eighty of the most decisive years in American history. He uncovers the forgotten stories of battles to open up lunch counters, beaches, and movie theaters in the North; the untold history of struggles against Jim Crow schools in northern towns; the dramatic story of racial conflict in northern cities and suburbs; and the long and tangled histories of integration and black power.
Appearing throughout these tumultuous tales of bigotry and resistance are the people who propelled progress, such as Anna Arnold Hedgeman, a dedicated churchwoman who in the 1930s became both a member of New York’s black elite and an increasingly radical activist; A. Philip Randolph, who as America teetered on the brink of World War II dared to threaten FDR with a march on Washington to protest discrimination–and got the Fair Employment Practices Committee (“the second Emancipation Proclamation”) as a result; Morris Milgram, a white activist who built the Concord Park housing development, the interracial answer to white Levittown; and Herman Ferguson, a mild-mannered New York teacher whose protest of a Queens construction site led him to become a key player in the militant Malcolm X’s movement.
Filled with unforgettable characters and riveting incidents, and making use of information and accounts both public and private, such as the writings of obscure African American journalists and the records of civil rights and black power groups, Sweet Land of Liberty creates an indelible history. Thomas Sugrue has written a narrative bound to become the standard source on this essential subject.
From the Hardcover edition.
Sweet Land of Liberty is an epic, revelatory account of the abiding quest for justice in states from Illinois to New York, and of how the intense northern struggle differed from and was inspired by the fight down South
With this landmark study, Thomas Sugrue has accomplished the extraordinary: he's transformed the history of the civil rights movement, shifting it from the south to the north, from Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma, to Harlem, Levittown, and the mean streets of Detroit. In the process, he's stripped away the comforting sense shared by so many Americans that the struggle for racial justice is complete, the victory won. If ever a book deserved to be essential reading, this is it.
- Kevin Boyle, author of the National Book Award-winning Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age
Thomas Sugrue's, Sweet Land of Liberty is one of the most important works on modern American history to appear in recent memory. It challenges and transforms what we think, not only about the struggle for civil rights, but more broadly about the entire course of American social and political development. It is one of those books that truly changes our historical perspective.
- Steve Hahn, author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration.
Richly researched, elegantly written, and monumental in scope, Sweet Land of Liberty offers a riveting portrait of racial change in the most putatively free and equal part of the United States. In shifting attention to northern streets and confrontations, this painful yet stirring narrative eloquently enlarges the scope of American history, compellingly extends our understanding of social movements, and thoughtfully reminds us that deep and just change does not come easily.
- Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Thomas J. Sugrue is a historian at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is currently Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of History and Sociology. Sugrue’s first book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, won the prestigious Bancroft Prize in American History, the President’s Book Award of the Social Science History Association, the Philip Taft Prize in Labor History, and the Urban History Association Prize for Best Book in North American Urban History. He has also published essays and reviews in The Washington Post, The Nation, London Review of Books, Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Detroit Free Press.
Table of Contents
Introduction — I. Unite and fight. "sweet land of liberty" ; "Pressure, more pressure and still more pressure" ; "1776 for the Negro" — II. Hearts and minds. "Balance of power" ; "No place for Colored" ; God have pity on such a city" ; "No rights more elemental" — III. Freedom now. "New frontier" ; "Fires of frustration and discord" ; "Long hot summer" ; "Unconditional war" ; "The Blackman's land" ; "It's not the bus, it's us" ; "Fighting for our lives" — Epilogue.
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