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Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten…

Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (udgave 2009)

af Thomas J. Sugrue (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
2293117,304 (4.05)2
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.
Titel:Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North
Forfattere:Thomas J. Sugrue (Forfatter)
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2009), Edition: NO-VALUE, 736 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek

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Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North af Thomas J. Sugrue


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Summary: A history of the fight for civil rights in the North from 1920 to roughly 2000, focusing on movements, leaders, issues, and their expression in northern cities.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Birmingham, John Lewis, sit-ins, James Farmer, the Edmund Pettus Bridge. When we thing of the history of the Civil Rights movement, we often are thinking of the movement in the South. But racism and the efforts of Blacks to assert their rights in the North was just as real, even if the racism was not so out in the open. Thomas J. Sugrue traces this history beginning in the 1920’s, at the time of the great northward migration of Blacks, in a dizzying array of detail that I can only begin to summarize.

We are introduced to leaders: Henry Lee Moon, A Philip Randolph, Anna Arnold Hedgeman, Whitney Young, Roy Wilkins, Attorney Cecil B. Moore, Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, Constance Baker Motley, Reverend Albert Cleage, and so many others. Sugrue covers their contributions. Perhaps one of the most striking profiles was Roxanne Jones, who rose from poverty to street activism to the state senate of Pennsylvania.

We learn about the movements: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the Urban League, CORE, the NAACP, with their attorney and litigation strategies, Nation of Islam, the Revolutionary Action Movement, and Mothers for Adequate Welfare.

Then there are the issues. Workplace rights. Equal access to facilities, a reality in the north, but often implicit rather than explicit. Open housing is one running through this narrative from redlining to exclusion from the Leavittown suburbs and restrictive covenants to real estate “steering” practices that preserved segregation in housing. There is the struggle for equal resources in schools, the struggle to desegregate, whether through redrawing school boundaries or busing, and all the pushback that occurred. He covers government employment programs and the ongoing income inequities.

Finally, because this happened in the North, this is a narrative that takes place in cities: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Gary, and Chicago. This last I found intriguing because the issues, the patterns, and struggles were ones I see as I study the history of my own home town of Youngstown. Sugrue’s history parallels the history both in time and struggle what I’ve observed. In the struggle for history, local history is national history.

Sugrue’s history demonstrates how so much of northern racism is woven into the fabric of our cities: government, residential patterns, workplace policies, school systems, economic policies. It explains the necessity of the movements because these systemic issues would not be changed out of the goodness of people’s hearts. They needed to be protested, resisted, litigated, boycotted, and legislated. Gradualism and patience was not adequate to bring about change. Yet often the targets were subtler and tougher to call out, and invidious actions could be justified by what seemed common sense or even noble reasons, always aiming to preserve the status quo.

We must face what is broken before we can repair and heal it. It seemed so much of this history was one of efforts to call out what was broken, and the stubborn refusal, or if that was not possible, the superficial steps to heal deep grievances and brokenness. We should not be surprised by the protests we saw in our streets in 2020. Within the frame of this book, they were simply one more expression of a hundred year history going back to the great Black northward migration in the first decades of the last century, one more cry to be heard, one more plea that we embark on the hard work of justice it takes to truly become the sweet land of liberty of which we sing. ( )
  BobonBooks | Feb 16, 2021 |
In Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North, Thomas J. Sugrue addresses a gap in the historiography, writing, “Nearly a half century later, our histories – and our collective memories – of the civil rights era do not reflect the national scope of racial inequality and the breadth of challenges to it” (pg. xii). He argues, “To understand the history of civil rights – indeed, to understand modern America – it is essential to bring the North back in” (pg. xiv). To this end, he “focuses on the moment in modern American history when activists, especially in the North, fought for their rights broadly conceived” (pg. xvii). Despite the large scope of Sugrue’s work, he works within the realm of microhistory, moving from case study to case study to prove his point.
Sugrue describes the push for civil rights activism, writing, “The civil rights impulse had been deeply rooted in the American past, yet it came to the surface in America at one particular moment, the 1940s. And it did so because of a shift in national politics and a simultaneous grassroots struggle from below” (pg. 31). He writes of the role of activism, “Whites would not yield the advantage of their race without a fight. Only the threat – or the actuality – of political disruption would” (pg. 32). Protests in the North paralleled and eclipsed those in the South. Sugrue writes, “Just as King and his allies were opening their nonviolent siege of Birmingham, an extraordinary wave of protests shook Philadelphia” (pg. 292). Elsewhere, “in Rochester, New York, a broad spectrum of civil rightd activists and nationalists, including Malcolm X, joined forces in protesting the city’s police, who had arrested twelve members of the Nation of Islam in January” (pg. 303-304). Sugrue devotes a great deal of attention to segregation in the North, which occurred through legal and extralegal means. Movie theaters used special ticketing and invitation only events to segregate their audiences (pg. 139). In regards to housing, Sugrue argues, “The existence of all-white and all-black neighborhoods was not a fixed, timeless feature of northern life. Rather, rigid housing segregation by race was a relatively new creation” (pg. 209). While certain towns enacted sundown laws, more commonly were neighborhood associations or realtors who limited prospective buyers of homes. Sugrue writes, “Whites often engaged in extralegal actions to enforce restrictive covenants and racially discriminatory lending policies. They fought viciously to keep ‘undesirables’ out of their neighborhoods as blacks migrated northward” (pg. 204). Despite efforts to change peoples’ minds, whites “moved in overwhelming numbers to all-white communities” (pg. 249).
Sugrue’s work blends synthesis with primary research, drawing extensively upon the secondary literature of the civil rights era while incorporating information from various local newspapers, African-American papers, the documents of the Congress for Racial Equality, and more. At times, the book loses its way due to the breadth and scope of the project. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Apr 1, 2017 |
Comprehensive Survey of Civil Rights in the North

This is a comprehensive survey text of the long and often much more complicated struggle for racial justice in the northern states from the great migration until just about the Clinton years. Sugrue explores the topic of civil rights through its intersection with cold war politics, New Deal political alliances, labor activism, and second-wave feminism.

The book explores the many social movements that emerged in response to the overt and institutionalized racism that African Americans experienced. Because racial segregation in the North was often de facto as institutionalized through racialized residential covenants, local school board decisions, and unwritten hiring practices, the sociological effects were much more difficult and complex to analyze. But certainly, they helped to explain why the marginalization of African Americans occurred in urban cities right across America both before, during, and after the civil rights era. Right or wrong, the complex nature of race relations prevents whites from fully appreciating just how unjust the current system continues to be. If anything, hopefully Sugrue's book will help to educate and bridge the knowledge gap.

Although, Sugrue perhaps sacrifices a little depth in his attempt to cover the breadth, it still does not take away from the text as an excellent primer on race relations in the northern states. I highly recommend this book as an complimentary text for any undergraduate course on race in America. ( )
  bruchu | Jun 5, 2009 |
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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.

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