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Brown in Baltimore: School Desegregation and the Limits of Liberalism 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0801476525
ISBN-10: 0801476526
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Editorial Reviews


"Howell S. Baum's "Brown" in Baltimore provides a history of school segregation in Baltimore from the Civil War through the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that ended de jure segregation, to the early 1980s when desegregating the City of Baltimore was deemed a lost cause. In remarkable detail, Baum recounts Baltimore's consistent pursuit of liberal ideals that placed individual freedoms high above racial equality. What resulted was a failed desegregation effort. Baum's attention to context is the most impressive aspect of "Brown" in Baltimore. He places this story of education policymaking in Baltimore's political, geographic, and social settings to explain why these events unfolded as they did. Readers of "Brown" in Baltimore will learn a great deal about modern American history, urban society, city government, and education policy. As such, the text is well suited for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses on these subjects. Additionally, it will be of great benefit to anyone working to understand the current struggles in American urban education, as the book tells the story of one of many failed educational reforms that preceded current efforts. Surely, Baum's history of school segregation in Baltimore contributes a great deal to our understanding of why efforts to desegregate have failed and, in turn, why desegregation has done little to reform American education."―Journal of Urban Affairs

"Baum captures as no other historian has Baltimore city leaders' abiding faith in the power of liberalism to promote civic equality. . . . Their 'raceless attack on segregation,' Baum argues, was doomed to failure. . . . His book successfully indicts liberalism on its own terms, laying bare the devastating if unintended consequences of free-choice public schooling."―Robert S. Wolff, Journal of American History (September 2011)

"Baum's excellent book populates an account about broad social forces with portraits of very human individuals, most well intentioned, many heroic, all making concrete decisions based on partial information. . . . Baum portrays the real roots of Baltimore's failures as running deeper and developing earlier than the anger over the post-assassination riots. The city's decline into helplessness in coping with race was not a hairpin turn but a slow-moving glacier, more or less predestined by political culture, ideology, and habits that Baum wraps up into the concept of liberalism. Liberalism, as he conceives it, buttressed the city's allegiance to individualism, freedom, and choice: all values that helped to support a readiness to toss aside formal segregation, but which created blind spots about more systemic forms of racial privilege, clashed with proposals to use government power to authoritatively intervene in pursuit of integration, and made it easy for the leaders to misguage political reactions rooted in collective identities, hopes, and resentments tied to race. Above all else, Baltimore was unwilling―possibly unable―to talk about race."―Jeffrey R. Henig, City & Community

"As an account of school desegregation at the policymaking level, Brown in Baltimore is an important book. While the author offers the reader plenty of detail about various policies and administrative issues, he does not lose sight of the larger currents affecting education in the city. Baum provides an excellent account of Baltimore school desegregation which analyzes school policy at the intersection of major forces in American life, especially institutional racism and political liberalism."―Jared Leighton, H-1960s, H-Net Reviews

"The usual story emphasizes the influence of demographic change, federal urban policy, venal blockbusters, deindustrialization, and the politics of race and class. In his powerful account of the abject failure of desegregation in the schools of Baltimore, Howell S. Baum, professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Maryland, does not deny the importance of any of these factors. His history includes all of them. But he digs deeper. Underlying the usual culprits, Baum finds American liberalism with its fixation on individual freedom and preference for markets over governments. . . . Baum's account rests on a thorough canvas of primary sources, including valuable interviews with key participants in the events. . . . Baum's book joins exceptional scholarship with keen political insight and a moral sensibility which never loses track of what is at stake."―Journal of Social History

"As a major city just below the Mason-Dixon line, Baltimore won approval when it became one of the first cities in the country to comply with the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Unlike their southern neighbors, white officials in Baltimore led the effort that resulted in the relatively peaceful desegregation of its public schools. Yet, in this wonderful book, Howell S. Baum digs deep into Baltimore’s history of school desegregation to uncover how the city’s 'liberalism' actually led to a pattern of political and civic abandonment. Baum illustrates how 'liberalism' muffled racial conflict and consequently weakened the city’s capacity to address issues of race and equality in its public schools. Brown in Baltimore is a genuine tour de force."―Marion Orr, Director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and the Fred Lippitt Professor of Public Policy, Political Science and Urban Studies at Brown University, author of Black Social Capital: The Politics of School Reform in Baltimore

"In this sensitive, readable, and well-researched book, Howell S. Baum shows how Baltimore officials tried and failed to integrate the city schools. Baltimore City officials honored freedom of choice in the abstract, but that notion proved inadequate to produce schools in which whites and blacks studied together. Baum writes with particular insight about the working-class ethnic whites of East Baltimore, and he shows a fundamental understanding of the workings of federal regulatory agencies and the peculiar pace at which the courts manage social conflict. The result is a wonderful combination of social science and history that illuminates one of America's key social concerns."―Edward D. Berkowitz, George Washington University, author of Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the Seventies

"Howell S. Baum carefully traces the long arc of struggle over school desegregation in a distinctive American city. With a storyteller's sense of narrative and a scholar's attention to detail, he adroitly assays the limits of classic liberal solutions to the nation's long-standing dilemma of race and sociospatial inequity in urban education."―John L. Rury, University of Kansas, author of Education and Social Change: Contours in the History of American Schooling

About the Author

HOWELL S. BAUM is a Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Maryland.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1st edition (April 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801476526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801476525
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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Howell Baum has written an amazing book, detailed and penetrating. While it is a history of Baltimore public schools and desegregation, it also is a history of that city's complicated racial relations. A very important book. Essential and highly recommended.
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