Synopses & Reviews
The Northeastern United Statesand#151;home to abolitionism and a refuge for blacks fleeing the Jim Crow Southand#151;has had a long and celebrated history of racial equality and political liberalism. After World War II, the region appeared poised to continue this legacy, electing black politicians and rallying behind black athletes and cultural leaders. However, as historian Jason Sokol reveals in All Eyes Are Upon Us
, these achievements obscured the harsh reality of a region riven by segregation and deep-seated racism.
White fans from across Brooklynand#151;Irish, Jewish, and Italianand#151;came out to support Jackie Robinson when he broke baseballand#8217;s color barrier with the Dodgers in 1947, even as the cityand#8217;s blacks were shunted into segregated neighborhoods. The African-American politician Ed Brooke won a senate seat in Massachusetts in 1966, when the state was 97% white, yet his political career was undone by the resistance to busing in Boston. Across the Northeast over the last half-century, blacks have encountered housing and employment discrimination as well as racial violence. But the gap between the northern ideal and the regionand#8217;s segregated reality left small but meaningful room for racial progress. Forced to reckon with the disparity between their racial practices and their racial preaching, blacks and whites forged interracial coalitions and demanded that the region live up to its promise of equal opportunity.
A revelatory account of the tumultuous modern history of race and politics in the Northeast, All Eyes Are Upon Us presents the Northeast as a microcosm of America as a whole: outwardly democratic, inwardly conflicted, but always striving to live up to its highest ideals.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
Jason Sokols account of the struggle for racial equality in the Northeast following World War II reveals a region that has, paradoxically, served the nation as a model of idealism, yet clashed fitfully, sometimes violently, over whether and how to translate those ideals into action. What makes Sokols study so fascinatingand importantis the way it challenges the mystique of Northeast progressivism while also charting that mystiques shaping impact on a region committed to closing the gap between democracy and discrimination. All eyes should be upon Sokols illuminating new history.”
2015 Chautauqua Prize Finalist
New York Times Approval Matrix
Daily Beast Best Books of the About the Volatile 60s
New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
New York Times Book Review
and#147;A prescient book that offers a great deal to explain a national self-deception of stunning brevityand#133;Ambitious, engrossing, analytically lucidand#133;It is certainly possible that when this decade ends it will have confirmed the relevance of W.E.B. Du Boisand#8217;s grim prophecy about Americaand#8217;s everlasting racism. Jason Sokoland#8217;s exceptional All Eyes Are Upon Us prepares us for just such a possibility.and#8221;
and#147;A skilled storyteller, Sokol offers a series of interwoven case studies on topics that are sometimes familiar but, more often, not well knownand#133;Carefully balancing an appreciation of the symbolism of interracial politics with recognition of the forces that remain untouched by it, All Eyes Are Upon Us reminds us and#151; if we need reminding and#151; that the events unfolding in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island and too many other communities are embedded in a complex and problematic history of both racial advances and obstacles to progress.and#8221;
and#147;This groundbreaking history shows a civil rights movement beyond Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis. An important new voice in 20th-century history, Sokol expands the civil rights story to include segregated schools and racial politics in the Northeast.and#8221;
and#147;All Eyes Are Upon Us succeeds in excavating unfamiliar insights.and#8221;
Kansas City Star
and#147;You will certainly come away with a better understanding of the continuum of racial discomfort that defines American society as it lurches between multi-racial progress and disturbing disappointment.and#8221;
History News Network
and#147;All Eyes Are Upon Us offers equally fascinating portraits of several successful black politiciansand#133;a refreshing departure from recent histories of iconic American figures and epic events aimed for the best-seller lists. He also allows the perceptions of many participants in this history, major and minor, to shape and deepen his own.and#8221;
and#147;An honest, conscientious book.and#8221;
and#147;With sharp research and insights, Sokol follows this blithe and self-congratulatory legacy through the election of President Barack Obama.and#8221;
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
and#147;Jason Sokoland#8217;s account of the struggle for racial equality in the Northeast following World War II reveals a region that has, paradoxically, served the nation as a model of idealism, yet clashed fitfully, sometimes violently, over whether and how to translate those ideals into action. What makes Sokoland#8217;s study so fascinatingand#151;and importantand#151;is the way it challenges the and#145;mystiqueand#8217; of Northeast progressivism while also charting that mystiqueand#8217;s shaping impact on a region committed to closing the gap between democracy and discrimination. All eyes should be upon Sokoland#8217;s illuminating new history.and#8221;
Waldo Martin, Morrison Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley
and#147;All Eyes Are Upon Us is an original and insightful exploration of the recent history of Americaand#8217;s paradoxical racial soul: simultaneous promise and advance on one side, and disillusionment and retrogression on the other. Highly deserving of a wide readership, this is an engagingly written examination of the history of racial politics in the Northeast as a lens to illuminate this enduring tension.and#8221;
For centuries, the Northeasthome to abolitionism and a refuge for blacks fleeing the Jim Crow Southhas presented itself as a model of racial equality. After World War II, the victories of black cultural and political leaders from Jackie Robinson to Ed Brooke to Shirley Chisholm seemed to continue the regions legacy.
But as historian Jason Sokol reveals in All Eyes are Upon Us, these achievements belied a very different reality for most African Americans, who were shunted into ghettoes and filtered through menial jobs. Northern leaders, conscious of the gap between the regions political ideals and its deep-seated racism, challenged their constituents to reconcile their practices with their preaching, propelling the regionand the countryalong an unlikely path to equality.
All Eyes are Upon Us presents the Northeast as a microcosm of America as a whole: outwardly democratic, inwardly conflicted, but always striving to live up to its highest ideals.
About the Author
Jason Sokol is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire and a Non-Resident Fellow at Harvards W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. The author of There Goes My Everything
, Sokol lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Northern Mystique
Part I: North of Jim Crow
1. And to Think That It Happened in Springfield
Pioneering Pluralism, Practicing Segregation (1939-1945)
2. Something in the Air
Jackie Robinsonand#8217;s Brooklyn (1947-1957)
3. and#147;If We Were Segregationistsand#8221;
The Struggle to Integrate Northeastern Schools (1957-1965)
Part II: Forerunners
4. The Color-Blind Commonwealth?
The Election of Edward Brooke (1966)
5. Shirley Chisholmand#8217;s Place
Winning New Yorkand#8217;s 12th Congressional District (1968)
Part III: Mirrors
6. and#147;The North is Guiltyand#8221;
Abraham Ribicoffand#8217;s Crusade (1970)
7. and#147;This Bedeviling Busing Businessand#8221;
The Long 1970s, the Trials of Edward Brooke, and the Fall of the North (1968-1979)
Part IV: The Death and Life of the North
8. A Tale of Two Hartfords
Politics and Poverty in a Land of Plenty (1980-1987)
9. The Ghost of Willie Turks
Racial Violence and Black Politics in New York City (1982-1993)
10. The North Rises Again
Deval Patrick, Barack Obama, and the 21st Century (1990-2012)