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Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters: The Struggle over Segregated Recreation in America (Politics and Culture in Modern America) Hardcover – August 3, 2012

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Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters: The Struggle over Segregated Recreation in America (Politics and Culture in Modern America) + The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South
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Product Details

  • Series: Politics and Culture in Modern America
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (August 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812244346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812244342
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #358,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"History professor Wolcott recounts a staggering litany of large and small-scale protests and riots at recreational facilities across the United States from the 1930s through the 1960s. Wolcott aims to make the case that the struggle to desegregate recreational facilities is an often overlooked but essential facet of the American Civil Rights narrative. . . . Together the stories reveal a national pattern of White violence against protestors and illuminate the shameful tactics employed by recreation facility owners to subvert the growing demand for desegregation."—Publishers Weekly

"The expansion of civil rights in recreational spaces is essential to understanding the civil rights movement of America, but it is not only a narrative of violence against African Americans either to sustain segregation or to admit integration. Wolcott's work adds a much-needed chapter to both civil rights and leisure histories, while it carefully avoids incorporating the very black cultural institutions before World War II that were central to African American participation in modernist identities and part of postwar integrationist advocacy."—American Historical Review

"Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters is a significant contribution to the growing corpus that attempts to rethink the traditional contours of the civil rights movement. Uncovering the neglected struggle over public amusements, Wolcott deepens our understanding of the relationship between civil rights, urban history, and popular culture in twentieth-century America."—Journal of American Culture

"Drawing on an array of sources, Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters makes an important contribution to the history of the civil rights movement by significantly expanding our understanding of the hardships black Americans faced to desegregate public recreational spaces, including amusement parks, swimming pools, and skating rinks."—Journal of Southern History

"Victoria Wolcott's well-written and deeply researched new book adds another crucial layer to the civil rights narrative. She goes beyond the familiar marches and leaders to focus on movie theaters, skating rinks, dance halls, city parks, amusement parks, and swimming pools as places of struggle. In doing so, she brings in a new cast of characters—children, teenagers, mothers—and shows how the battles over access to urban leisure predate Brown and extend well past the March on Washington. No one has identified and chronicled the conflicts in these places with the care and precision that Wolcott has."—Bryant Simon, author of Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America

"In this powerful story, Victoria Wolcott demonstrates why recreation is central to understanding the history of the civil rights movement in America. Her book also asks us to push the existing frontiers of our historical memory—why violence against African Americans in order to sustain segregation has been forgotten, while violence that sometimes accompanied integration is remembered. With Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters, we reexamine more closely both the ideals and nightmares of America in the twentieth century."—Alison Isenberg, Princeton

About the Author

Victoria W. Wolcott is Associate Professor of History at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, and the author of Remaking Respectability: African-American Women in Interwar Detroit.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JW on November 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is a significant addition to the history of the civil rights movement. Unless you lived through the time periods discussed, you may be unaware that civil rights activism predated the 60s and predated Martin Luther King Jr.. In cities across the country, parents and students initiated and carried out important actions against discrimination and segregation. This book specifically covers protests and sit-ins against segregation in places of recreation - parks, pools, beaches, and amusement parks from about 1920 on. It includes northern cities and southern cities. It also touches on the history of discrimination among such institutions as the State parks, National Parks, the Boy & Girl Scouts, the YMCA & YWCA and Disneyland. These protests may seem relatively insignificant compared to discrimination in housing, employment, and the military but it was important to the families who were denied the use of facilities that were maintained with their tax money. In regions that have hot weather, access to pools & beaches was very important for children living in homes without air conditioning. Plus, these community amenities were right in the faces of the African American citizens and the segregation was getting old, to say the least. In some places, protests were carried out off and on for over twenty years before finally achieving integration Sometimes the NAACP or CORE would work on a protest action with the citizen activists, but often the parents or students managed on their own. Courageously they protested in spite of facing racist taunts, being spit upon, being thrown to the ground, being beaten with fists & chains & other implements, being threatened, being arrested. Some were even killed for trying to integrate a park.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
History buffs (and in a perfect world, the educated public at large) will know about the long Civil Rights Movement, including early riots and northern de facto segregation. What has often been left out of the story is the role of recreation. At a time when Americans were pursuing recreational activity (swimming, amusement parks, skating rinks, etc.) like never before, this became another way to separate African Americans and remind them that they did not and could not enjoy the same societal fruits as whites. Wolcott skillfully relates the account of this fight which was waged, more often than not, in person and by regular citizens- mothers, children, and teachers. How were business owners and local officials able to flout state and federal laws to keep their theaters and parks white? What happened when black children sought to cool off in the pools that their parents' tax dollars helped fund? It is definitely worth a read to find out.
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