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Are you interested in racial justice?  the civil rights/Black Power era?  anti-racist activism?  social movements?  the role of the Catholic church in the urban North? urban inequality?  the continuing "urban crisis" in the U.S. today?  housing issues? employment issues?  school desegregation?  police-community relations?  Then read on past the jump...

(link to book:

I have a new book out with Harvard University Press - "The Selma of the North:  Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee" - and I think many Daily Kos folks, particularly those interested in the kinds of things listed above, might like to check it out.  

Between 1958 and 1970, a distinctive movement for racial justice emerged from unique circumstances in Milwaukee. A series of local leaders inspired growing numbers of people to participate in campaigns against employment and housing discrimination, segregated public schools, the membership of public officials in discriminatory organizations, welfare cuts, and police brutality.

The Milwaukee movement culminated in the dramatic—and sometimes violent—1967 open housing campaign. A white Catholic priest, James Groppi, led the NAACP Youth Council and Commandos in a militant struggle that lasted for 200 consecutive nights and provoked the ire of thousands of white residents. After working-class mobs attacked demonstrators, some called Milwaukee “the Selma of the North.” Others believed the housing campaign represented the last stand for a nonviolent, interracial, church-based movement.

The book offers a powerful and dramatic narrative that is important for its insights into civil rights history: the debate over nonviolence and armed self-defense, the meaning of Black Power, the relationship between local and national movements, and the dynamic between southern and northern activism. It is a valuable contribution to movement history in the urban North that also adds a vital piece to the national story.

The movement in Milwaukee played a key role in helping get the Civil Rights Act of 1968 passed, which prohibited racial discrimination in the rental or sale of property.  Dr. King, who failed in his attempt to bring non-violent direct action North in Chicago in 1966 said that the leaders of the successful 1967-68 Milwaukee open housing campaign had found "a middle ground between riots and timid supplications for justice."  

The question is:  Why don't we remember this story, as we do Selma, Birmingham, Montgomery and other comparable southern stories? I would suggest that we don't tell these northern movement stories because they force us to face the contemporary, on-going reality of continuing racial inequality throughout urban America.  (for example, Milwaukee today is still one of the most segregated cities in the nation, home to one of the poorest black communities.) This is not a tidy and redemptive story of American democracy.  This is a history that brings us face-to-face with our racial failures as a society and demands action.

So, even though the book focuses on specifically on Milwaukee, the basic contours of the story will be familiar to anyone living in a middle or large-sized American city.  This could be New York, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Philly, Boston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Omaha, St. Louis, Kansas City, Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Fran, Seattle, etc.  

I am one of a new generation of historians that is reconceptualizing the way we understand the civil rights/Black Power era by pushing the narrative beyond the Deep South to include the urban North, Midwest and West.  In the process, fundamentally altering the way we understand post-WWII struggles for racial justice in the U.S. and the roots of the ongoing "urban crisis" in American today.

Here are some initial reviews of the book:

Think you know the full story of the civil rights era? Patrick Jones's masterful study of the movement in Milwaukee will make you think again. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, The Selma of the North provides a devastating rebuttal of many of the conventional narratives of the civil rights movement. Here a vibrant nonviolent movement in the de-industrializing Midwest grows into a Black Power movement led by urban youth and a white Catholic priest who use confrontational direct action to lay bare the fissures of racial inequality in the 'liberal' North.
--Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College, editor, Freedom North and Groundwork

The Selma of the North is a riveting new story of the civil rights movement in America, a tale on par with Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery in its power and importance. Jones's magisterial research and magnetic prose illuminate the untold story of the battle for the urban north in the 1960s, a battle that shows how race has always been the Achilles heel of white progressives. This story transcends easy dichotomies of black and white, North and South, radical and reformist. How did a group called 'the Commandos' define nonviolence? How did a white Catholic priest become a 'Black Power' leader? If this is not a saga for the age of Obama, I don't know what is.
--Timothy B. Tyson, author of Radio Free Dixie:  Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power and Blood Done Sign My Name

Here is a recent interview I did with Wisconsin Public Radio on the open housing campaign and its link to persistent racialized poverty and urban segregation today:

I hope you might check out the book and help spread the word to other people in your circles that you think might find it interesting, insightful or useful.

I appreciate the support.

all best,
Patrick Jones

Originally posted to democracy8888 on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 09:01 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips... (7+ / 0-)

    ... for those who struggle for justice in the urban North!

  •  Reminds me of a photo book we have (0+ / 0-)

    It's a very grim book, collecting photographic evidence of lynchings across the country in the first half of the 20th century.  One of the photos is of a group of young men hanged from a telephone pole in the downtown square of Duluth, MN.  

    There's definitely a lot more to the fight for civil rights than is taught in our schools.  Congratulations on getting the book published.

  •  Your post reminded me of Vanport (0+ / 0-)

    It was a city created to house shipbuilders during WWII that had to be built outside of the city limits so that blacks could move there. Good short history here:

    History of Vanport

    A quote:

    Portland had long had a reputation as what one national black leader called “the most prejudiced (city) in the west,” a place where African Americans were limited to work on the railroads or as domestics in homes and hotels.  As a result, only 2,000 blacks lived in the city just before the war.  In the rest of Oregon, there were virtually none.  This was due in part to Oregon’s first constitution, which prohibited blacks from even entering the state, and to the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, which in the 1920s had up to 200,000 Oregon members.

    Given this background, Vanport was a risky experiment, allowing large numbers of whites and blacks to live together for the first time.  Many local leaders railed against it, predicting dire results.  In practice, though, the experiment worked.  Discrimination did not end — blacks were unofficially segregated into the least desirable units and unjustly blamed for creating a climate of crime — but for the most part the two parties lived in peace.  The Vanport schools were integrated, as were recreational facilities and churches, and African Americans were able to form several groups that helped them protect and expand their rights.

    When people talk about how the racial divide is over or that the north has a better record, some history is pretty useful. We are still not there in Portland, but folks are trying.

    Yes we did, yes we will. President Obama

    by marketgeek on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 09:37:31 AM PST

  •  Shilling... (0+ / 0-)

    and I don't mean Curt.  Are you trying to make a point, or just shilling your book?

    I grew up in Cleveland, OH during the 50s and 60s.  The city was/is a product of white flight, just like all the other rust belt cities.  The racism is endemic and permanent.  There will be periodic blowups every time black people and white people try to share power.

    "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

    by dolfin66 on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 10:23:57 AM PST

    •  just putting the word out... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... anyone who writes academic books knows you do it for the love, not the money.  I spent a lot of time on this project and think it has something worthwhile to say... and that folks on Daily Kos might be interested.

      So, if you are asking if I was/am trying to spread the word about my book, the answer is yes.  But it is more about the ideas in it than any profit I might make, which is sadly puny.  I thought some people here might find it insightful...

      ... apologies if my post seemed purely self-serving.  

      •  No worries. (0+ / 0-)

        I realized that what you were doing was worthwhile; I was just tweaking your nose a little.  I wrote a 66,000 word manuscript on my experiences in public education, the state of its demise and some suggestions to fix it that publishers and agents said wouldn't sell and, therefore, wouldn't print.  I guess when one considers that only 5-7% of the people of this country buy over 75% of the books, it makes sense.

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Tue Mar 03, 2009 at 08:58:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Racism in the North (0+ / 0-)

    is an old but mostly hidden story. How many Americans know that slavery was legal in NY until the 1820s?

    Let tyrants fear.-Queen Elizabeth I

    by Virginia mom on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 10:39:47 AM PST

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