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: http://www.amazon.com/...
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.