Brian PurnellFighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn

University Press of Kentucky, 2014

by Peter Aigner on November 25, 2014

Brian Purnell

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[Cross-posted from New Books in History] Scholars interested in the history of the civil rights movement in the North will definitely be interested in Brian Purnell‘s new book, Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn (University Press of Kentucky, 2014). This case study of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Brooklyn joins one of the fastest-growing areas of research in the field: the roots and experience of the black freedom struggle above the Mason-Dixon. Challenging many of the nation’s persistent beliefs about the geographic timeline and ideological dynamics of that social movement, this literature has broadened our understanding of the past and given us a far more complicated view of the challenges facing grassroots organizations  in the years before, during, and following the “classical period,” stretching from Rosa Parks’s arrest to Martin Luther King’s dream. Purnell looks at one of CORE’s most active, aggressive chapters in the North between 1960 and 1965. An exemplar of social history, the book explores the difficulties facing a small organization trying to upset the racial status quo in a city that prided itself on colorblindness–pioneering much of the legislation adopted by the federal government later–despite the fact that in education, housing, and labor segregation prevailed. Aggravating matters were a number of seismic changes in New York, as elsewhere: the flight of industry and middle class taxpayers to the suburbs and Sunbelt, and the influx of millions of laid-off southern sharecroppers to neighborhoods that, because of “de facto” Jim Crow, became increasingly poor, overcrowded, dilapidated, and ridden with trash, crime, and despair. Purnell gives us the story of a group valiantly attempting to avert and assuage these overwhelming developments. As he notes, their failures speak to the reality many still face today.

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Candis Watts SmithBlack Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Diversity

November 18, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Political Science]  Candis Watts Smith is the author of Black Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Diversity (NYU Press, 2014). Watts Smith is assistant professor of political science at Williams College. How do Black immigrants in the US view their racial and ethnic identities? Do they identify with being Black, African American, or [...]

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Edward E. AndrewsNative Apostles: Black and Indian Missionaries in the British Atlantic World

November 7, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] Often when we think of missions to Native Americans or people of African descent, we think of white missionaries. In his book Native Apostles: Black and Indian Missionaries in the British Atlantic World (Harvard University Press, 2013), Dr. Edward E. Andrews challenges this view. Through his careful research, skilled use of anecdotes, and [...]

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John Morrow and Jeffrey SammonsHarlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality

November 4, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Military History] John Morrow and Jeffrey Sammons share their insights on the story of the fabled 369th Infantry Regiment in their book, Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality (University Press of Kansas, 2014).  Our guests reveal a great deal about the state of African Americans in prewar [...]

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Catherine W. BishirCrafting Lives: African American Artisans in New Bern, North Carolina, 1770-1900

October 28, 2014

Seeking to fill the gap in scholarship focused on African American artisans in the American South, Catherine W. Bishir uses the very specific location of New Bern, North Carolina to “dig a deep hole” and produce a longitudinal study of black artisans that moves chronologically from the colonial period, through the early national period to [...]

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Melvin ElyIsrael on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War

October 21, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Law] In Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War (Vintage Books, 2004), Melvin Ely uses a trove of documents primarily found in the county court records of Prince Edward County, Virginia to unravel a rich story about the free blacks who inhabited “the gentle slope [...]

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Janet Sims-WoodDorothy Porter Wesley at Howard University: Building a Legacy of Black History

October 15, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Biography] There was once a notion that black people had no meaningful history. It’s a notion Dorothy Porter Wesley spent her entire career debunking. Through her 43 years at Howard University, where she helped create the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, her own publishing endeavors and collecting, and her unfettered support of the researchers [...]

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Adam EwingThe Age Of Garvey: How A Jamaican Activist Created A Mass Movement And Changed Global Black Politics

October 9, 2014

Adam Ewing acknowledges the enduring, if reductive, image of Garveyism – “the parades and shipping lines and colonization schemes” – in its early, Harlem-based incarnation, but focuses The Age Of Garvey: How A Jamaican Activist Created A Mass Movement And Changed Global Black Politics (Princeton University Press, 2014) on tracing the myriad manifestations of this “organic [...]

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Kwasi KonaduTransatlantic Africa, 1440-1888

September 30, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] Most of what we know about the trans-Atlantic slave trade–particularly before the nineteenth century–comes from documents produced by slavers and those Europeans and euro-Americans who interacted with them. Most, but, as Kwasi Konadu points out in Transatlantic Africa, 1440-1888 (Oxford University Press, 2014), not all. It is possible, Konadu shows, to construct a narrative [...]

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Lauren AraizaTo March for Others: The Black Freedom Struggle and the United Farm Workers

September 24, 2014

Co-founded in 1962 by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, the National Farm Workers Association would eventually become the United Farm Workers (UFW), the landmark labor union dedicated to achieving better wages and working conditions for rural California agricultural workers. In To March for Others: The Black Freedom Struggle and the United Farm Workers (University of Pennsylvania [...]

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