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Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights: 1919-1950 Hardcover – January 17, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (January 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393062449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393062441
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #974,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Yale historian Gilmore turns a wide lens on the battle against Jim Crow in this worthy if overstuffed collective biography of the black and white Southern activists whose work before the larger Civil Rights movement constitute its neglected, forgotten or repressed origins. Expanding the temporal and geographical boundaries of the fight for racial equality, Gilmore's scholarship considers international racial politics and traces a progression from 1920s Communists, who joined forces in the late 1930s with a radical left to form a Southern popular front, to the 1940s grassroots activists. Gilmore (Who Were the Progressives?) lavishes attention on the first American-born black Communist, Lovett Fort-Whiteman, who died in a Siberian gulag in 1939; and on FDR-era civil rights activist Pauli Murray, distinguished by her fight against segregation at the University of North Carolina in 1939 and her involvement in the defense of Virginia sharecropper Odell Walker, ultimately executed for killing his white landlord. Gilmore's sweeping, fresh consideration of pre-movement civil rights activity, with its links to both the exportation of American racism and the importation of Communist egalitarianism, is full of informative gems, but the mining is left to the reader. (Jan.)
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A sweeping, fresh consideration of pre-movement civil rights activism...full of informative gems. -- Publishers Weekly

An eye-opening book....richly textured....a full range of historical characters and events dominate the pages. -- Washington Post

Fascinating story of how communists, socialists, liberals, legal and labor activists helped lay the groundwork for the mainstream civil-rights breakthroughs. -- Kirkus Reviews

[R]ich....powerful and profound. -- The New York Times

More About the Author

Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, PhD, University of North Carolina, 1992, is Professor of African American Studies, Professor of American Studies, and Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History, and Director of Graduate Studies of the African American Studies Department for 2009-2010. She offers seminars in the history of the New South and race and gender. She is editor of Who Where the Progressives?, co-editor of Jumpin' Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil War to Civil Rights, and author of Gender and Jim Crow: Women and Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896-1920, which won the James A. Rawley Prize in 1997 for the best book in race relations and the Frederick Jackson Turner for the best first book by an author, both given by the Organization of American Historians. It also won the Julia Cherry Spruill Prize, awarded by the Southern Association for Women Historians and Yale University's Heyman Prize. Her latest book is Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950 (2008), which was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and named a Notable Book of 2008 by the American Library Association.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Ella Jo on January 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In a speech before the Organization of American Historians, scholar Jacquelyn Dowd Hall offered a window onto "the long civil rights movement" -- a struggle for human rights, economic and social citizenship, and human dignity that began long before Brown v. Board of Education and continued long after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

In her pathbreaking book, Defying Dixie, professor Glenda Gilmore gives texture and character to the long civil rights movement, using indigenous southern activists, black and white, to give her story shape. These activists, from the fearless and foolhardy Lovett Fort-Whiteman to the brilliant and indomitable Pauli Murray, all faced the demon of American white supremacy and did their best to slay it. They did not always prevail with strategies they dreamed up and pursued, but their vision and dedication bequeathed us a social movement, more expansive than the classic civil rights movement, that still informs drives for justice and equity.

Gilmore's book moves beyond the tired debates of Cold War historiography and the simple hagiography of civil rights heroes to give us a dynamic movement filled with complex characters. In giving these people their due, and rooting them in American soil, Defying Dixie helps us to understand the promise and possibilities of American politics, and to contend with the present in which we live.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Purple Dragon on December 10, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book covers an important period just after World War I (1919) and just prior to the Brown V. Board of Education decision(1954). This was a period of severe violence and repression for "Negroes". This violence and repression permeated every aspect of "Negro" life--lynching, race riots, tenant farming, convict labor system, jury exclusion, poll taxes, rigged legal systems and employment and public accommodation discrimination and more. For African Americans the situation had become untenable. Many of the returning veterans and others realized that the United States could be a very different place if it could be moved in the right direction in line with its creeds and constitution. "Negroes" had to play an ever increasing role in their own deliverance. Against this backdrop, Defying Dixie documents the attempts of the African American people and their allies to establish full identities for themselves and create a social milieu where they could operate as full human beings. This was an era where "Negroes" pursued an assortment of strategies and tactics-legal battles, letter writing campaigns, media engagement, governmental appeals, mass protests, sit-ins, boycotts, internal migration, emigration, etc and selected from an array of ideologies and guiding principles--democracy, communism, Gandhian passive resistance, integration, desegregation, socialism to support their liberation. Alliances and allegiances developed across the political spectrum to support "Negro" rights. This book gives voice to little known organizations and activists who worked tirelessly to improve the condition of "Negroes" and set the stage for the more famous civil rights activities which were to occur in the later fifties and sixties. Many of the tactics were tried and perfected during this period.Read more ›
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on March 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore's DEFYING DIXIE: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919 - 1950 is the history of the civil rights movement from that time until the early 1950s. It gives inside history, interviews and information on how the Civil Rights movement that we are aware of today, came about. In the beginning, the Communist party was deeply involved. Their plan was to get the workers of America - black and white - to fight for better salaries from the companies they worked for. The only way to accomplish that was to get the two groups to work together. Naturally, the South, with its legacy of slavery, wasn't too happy with the mixing of the races. The companies, to keep their profits high, wanted to continue to pay blacks less than they paid whites and the only way to do that was to keep them separate. Many residents of the South didn't want blacks involved in the job market because they felt it would reduce their ability to have those jobs. There were, however, many people, of both races, who were determined that segregation/Jim Crow, would end. They were brave enough to defy the system and as a result, they frequently ended up in jail or worse.

During the Second World War, as Stalin took power, the involvement of the Communist party began to lose its appeal. The House Un-American Activities became concerned and the FBI spied on Communist and suspects. Any contact with a Communist could cause problems. It didn't stop those who were determined to force America to honor what it claimed it went to war for, from pushing their agenda for social and economic equality for all, even though many of them suffered for it.

Gilmore has written a heart rending account that covers history that is either missing or glossed over in our history books.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book gets 4 stars because of the wealth of information in it .Having said that, it is necessary to warn readers that the organization of and connections between these bits of information leave a lot to be desired. The author needed a better editor than she got.
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