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Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow Hardcover – March 31, 1998

4.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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The Black Presidency by Michael Eric Dyson
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The name of the era, "Jim Crow," was somehow derived from an old minstrel song, but there was nothing frivolous about the laws and traditions used to keep blacks from participating in society in the post-Reconstruction South. Leon Litwack, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and a noted authority on black history, has written a searing account of the age of Jim Crow in Trouble In Mind. The book is arranged in thematic chapters that show how blacks were restricted at every turn. Blacks were kept in perpetual debt, denied proper schooling, and were subjected to daily assaults on their dignity. Most disturbing was the institution of lynchings, the thousands of hangings and burnings that terrorized blacks in the South. Litwack documents how lynchings were carefully planned and attracted large crowds who viewed them as cathartic entertainment. Trouble In Mind deals with a long and sad chapter in American History, but Professor Litwack has written a laudable book which deserves to be read. Trouble In Mind is considered a sequel to Litwack's Been In the Storm So Long, a critically acclaimed account of Reconstruction which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for History.

From Library Journal

The 1970s witnessed an explosion of extraordinary historical scholarship on black slavery, culture, and the complex relationship between races in U.S. history. Among the best of the great books published was Berkeley professor Litwack's Been in the Storm So Long (Random, 1979), which examined the development of black society and culture roughly from the Civil War to the end of the 19th century. The new volume begins a century ago as race relations deteriorated toward strict segregation and a brutality that rivaled slavery. As in his earlier book, Litwack is strongest describing how the black community built and preserved its integrity while under constant assault from hostile whites. This long-awaited sequel shows that the author is a master of making the most of sources that only a generation ago were considered too meager to merit serious historical examination. A useful discography follows the thorough bibliography of primary and secondary sources. Highly recommended for most public and academic audiences.?Charles K. Piehl, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 599 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (March 31, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039452778X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394527789
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 5.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I picked up "Trouble In Mind" hoping it would be the kind of exhaustive and eloquent study of the Jim Crow South that has been needed for decades. I was not disappointed. This book goes to great lengths to document every facet of the black experience in the American South, the so-called "New South." It not only shows how a people struggled against unbelieveable injustice and violence, but endured. This must never be forgotten. Ever. Earlier reviews which call this book "revisionist" "biased" or "flawed" seem to have forgotten Litwack's admonition in the preface, that this book was not meant "to depict blacks only as victims or whites only as victimizers." But it also shows an unwillingness to believe that things of this nature could have happened in America. Unfortunately, they did, and this book is only a beginning. It must not be viewed as a sword of Damocles to be held over the head of every white, but as a beginning to understanding the very real work left to be done in this country between whites and blacks. I applaud Leon Litwack for his work.
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Format: Paperback
Leon Litwack's book offers perhaps one of the most lucid and thorough descriptions of life under Jim Crow. By the time you turn the final page, it will be clear that Jim Crow is about far more than signs over drinking fountains. Rather, it was a systemic attempt to re-impose white supremacy after the yoke of slavery had been cast off. Despite others' criticisms, I found Litwack's evidence more than compelling. As a student of history, I must say that his coverage was complete, and his analysis was accurate. Trouble in Mind depends upon a wide variety of sources, including mainstream, white, periodicals. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that many of the primary-source documents are from mainstream, "white" sources.
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Format: Paperback
Leon F. Litwack has assembled a massive book, Trouble in Mind, that will take the reader through the entire life of African Americans living under the Jim Crow laws in the South. All the stories are taken from original sources that allow the authentic voices of the African Americans to heard whether in protest, agony, prayer, sadness, sympathy, anger, or the range of other emotions pouring out from this book and their stories. Many of the voices recur throughout the book and become very familiar to the reader. The book is designed so as to take the reader from childhood under Jim Crow until death and having those familiar voices appearing throughout the book does add a horrifying element of the seeing how the Jim Crow laws and racial attitudes in the South were all encompassing and affected a person's entire life. It does help if the reader has a familiarity with the history of this period to truly understand the stories in this book. It is a fine work that allows the voices of African Americans to speak out about the times they lived through.
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Format: Hardcover
Very few non-fiction books ever written in this country have been as astonishing,as factually solid, and as thoroughly disturbing. To read a book like this is to understand that there is something basically wrong with the way we have all been taught history. It isn't simply that we have never learned the entire history of segregation, of Jim Crow law, of lynchings, of post-Reconstruction (although we certainly haven't.) It's that our understanding of history has been sanitized beyond all recognition or resemblance to its true state. History as taught in schools is *perhaps* (and this is really being generous) comparable to five or six degrees ripped from a three hundred and sixty degree circle. Every once in a while, a book like one of Leon Litwack's comes along, and adds a liberal helping of degrees to our historical plates.
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By MysteryMan on September 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book on learning what life was like for African American's during the Jim Crow era during the early twentieth century. Litwalk uses extensive excerpts from Afican American's living at the time enabling him to interpret very little. Litwack makes it very clear in the Preface what the purpose of writing this book is. The purpose of writing this book is to help readers understand that even though the Civil War ended in 1865 blacks condition was anything but equal to whites in the South, especially after reconstruction. Litwack says: "What the white South lost in the battlefields of Civil War and during Reconstruction, it would largely retake in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century...a new generation of black Southerners shared with survivors of enslavement a sharply prescribed and deteriorating

position in a South bent on commanding black lives and black labor by any means necessary",(xiv). Litwack certainly achieved his purpose.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is revisionisim at its best. Dr. Litwack articulates the experience of blacks in the South with such depth that it becomes an inegral part of American History. A person seeking a challenge of old ideas must read this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
More than once when I was immersed in this book ("reading" does not do justice to the experience) I thought of Thomas Jefferson's quote: I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.

I agree with previous reviewers that this is a must-read book to help get an understanding of the effects of Jim Crow on life in the South. A couple reviewers noted that the author doesn't do justice to the whites in the south who did not go along with the racist system. I suggest that that was not the purpose of the book.

Litwack wanted to give an understanding of what the experience was like for Blacks living under Jim Crow legal and extralegal conditions. Any possible non-racist experiences at the hands of a white person would not in any way alter the day to day existence for Blacks: they lived in pervasive fear not knowing what might set off some white person and end in the death of a Black person. For more than a decade there averaged one lynching a week. This was in addition to the killing of Blacks by other means or the Blacks who suddenly disappeared.

With slavery abolished (and Black people no longer valuable property) it became literally open season on killing Blacks. The author uses anecdotal accounts and lots quotes to show what this meant to Blacks trying to work, get ahead, raise their family, participate in a community.

The chapters that deal with lynching are the most chilling. Heart breaking too are the catch 22 situations visited upon Blacks. Whites justified their supremacy by maintaining that Blacks didn't have what it takes (smarts, perseverance, etc.
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