Synopses & Reviews
2018 Winner of the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award
An intersectional history of the shared struggle for African American and Latinx civil rights
Spanning more than two hundred years, An African American and Latinx History of the United States is a revolutionary, politically charged narrative history, arguing that the "Global South" was crucial to the development of America as we know it. Scholar and activist Paul Ortiz challenges the notion of westward progress as exalted by widely taught formulations like "manifest destiny" and "Jacksonian democracy," and shows how placing African American, Latinx, and Indigenous voices unapologetically front and center transforms US history into one of the working class organizing against imperialism.
Drawing on rich narratives and primary source documents, Ortiz links racial segregation in the Southwest and the rise and violent fall of a powerful tradition of Mexican labor organizing in the twentieth century, to May 1, 2006, known as International Workers' Day, when migrant laborers — Chicana/os, Afrocubanos, and immigrants from every continent on earth — united in resistance on the first "Day Without Immigrants." As African American civil rights activists fought Jim Crow laws and Mexican labor organizers warred against the suffocating grip of capitalism, Black and Spanish-language newspapers, abolitionists, and Latin American revolutionaries coalesced around movements built between people from the United States and people from Central America and the Caribbean. In stark contrast to the resurgence of "America First" rhetoric, Black and Latinx intellectuals and organizers today have historically urged the United States to build bridges of solidarity with the nations of the Americas.
Incisive and timely, this bottom-up history, told from the interconnected vantage points of Latinx and African Americans, reveals the radically different ways that people of the diaspora have addressed issues still plaguing the United States today, and it offers a way forward in the continued struggle for universal civil rights.
“From Crispus Attucks and José Maria Morelos to César Chávez and Martin Luther King Jr...The result is simultaneously invigorating, embarrassing, and essential to anyone interested in what the revolutionaries of years past can teach us about struggles for freedom, equality, and democracy today.” William P. Jones, author of The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights
“An epic, panoramic account of class struggles in the Western Hemisphere. At center stage are the Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people who built the ‘new world.’” Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
"A challenging and necessary approach to understanding our history. A must-read for those who want a deeper perspective than is offered in the traditional history textbook." Library Journal
"A concise, alternate history of the United States....A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, 'from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the United States Constitution.'" Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
About the Author
Paul Ortiz is a professor of history and the director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida. He is the author of Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920 and coeditor of the oral history Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South. He lives in Gainesville, Florida.