Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves. Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment,The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an "unrecognized immigration" within our own land.
The civil rights movement has become national legend, lauded as proof of the power of American democracy. This fable, featuring dreamy heroes and accidental heroines, has shuttered the movement firmly in the past, whitewashed the forces that stood in its way, and diminished its scope. Jeanne Theoharis dissects this national myth-making, teasing apart the accepted stories to show them in a strikingly different light. We see Rosa Parks not simply as a bus lady but a lifelong criminal justice activist and radical; Martin Luther King, Jr. as not only challenging Southern sheriffs but Northern liberals, too; and Coretta Scott King not only as a "helpmate" but a lifelong economic justice and peace activist who pushed her husband's activism in these directions. Theoharis makes us reckon with the fact that far from being acceptable, passive or unified, the civil rights movement was unpopular, disruptive, and courageously persevering. By showing us the complex reality of the movement, the power of its organizing, and the beauty and scope of the vision, Theoharis proves that there was nothing natural or inevitable about the progress that occurred.
In an analysis of how international relations affected any domestic issue, Mary Dudziak interprets postwar civil rights as a Cold War feature. She argues that the Cold War helped facilitate key social reforms, including desegregation. Civil rights activists gained tremendous advantage as the government sought to polish its international image. But improving the nation's reputation did not always require real change. This focus on image rather than substance--combined with constraints on McCarthy-era political activism and the triumph of law-and-order rhetoric--limited the nature and extent of progress. Archival information, much of it newly available, supports Dudziak's argument that civil rights was Cold War policy. Contributing mightily to our understanding of both the Cold War and the civil rights movement, Dudziak corrects isolationist tendencies in American history by applying an international perspective to domestic affairs.
Too Heavy a Load celebrates this century's rich history of black women defending themselves, from Ida B. Wells to Anita Hill. Although most prominently a history of the century-long struggle against racism and male chauvinism, Deborah Gray White also illuminates black women's painful struggle to hold their racial and gender identities intact while feeling the inexorable pull of the agendas of white women and black men. Finally, it tells the larger and lamentable story of how Americans began this century measuring racial progress by the status of black women but gradually came to focus on the status of black men-the masculinization of America's racial consciousness. Writing with the same eye for historical detail as in her best-selling Ar'n't I a Woman, Deborah Gray White has given us a moving and definitive history of struggle and freedom.
Acclaimed by writers Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, Paula Giddings's When and Where I Enter is not only an eloquent testament to the unsung contributions of individual women to our nation, but to the collective activism which elevated the race and women's movements that define our times. From Ida B. Wells to the first black Presidential candidate, Shirley Chisholm; from the anti-lynching movement to the struggle for suffrage and equal protection under the law; Giddings tells the stories of black women who transcended the dual discrimination of race and gender--and whose legacy inspires our own generation. Forty years after the passing of the Voting Rights Act, when phrases like "affirmative action" and "wrongful imprisonment" are rallying cries, Giddings words resonate now more than ever.