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Born along the Color Line: The 1933 Amenia Conference and the Rise of a National Civil Rights Movement 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195174557
ISBN-10: 0195174550
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"[A] meticulous and altogether beautifully composed study of people and ideas . I must begin by noting how gifted Miller is at mining the gold dust of details that take us inside a temperament and personality-not just within 'a mind.' Miller has written a book that deserves to be both carefully read and deeply admired." --American Historical Review


"Miller does an excellent job of portraying his protagonists and reconstructing their ideas and debates." --Journal of American History


"Eben Miller centers his terrific new book on a glorious estate in the Hudson River Valley at the height of summer 1933. In that unlikely spot, he uncovers a crossroad in the long, hard struggle for civil rights, a place where the movement pivoted. Born along the Color Line is a marvelous piece of historical recreation, original, engaging, and enlightening."-Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age


"In this creative and engaging account of a pivotal moment in the history of the NAACP, Eben Miller captures the organizational vibrancy and ideological diversity of the nation's leading civil rights organization. Through the biographies of the young black men and women who vigorously debated strategies for combating segregation and racial inequality at the NAACP's Amenia Conference, Born along the Color Line effectively recovers the diverse and often competing political currents informing civil rights activism prior to the rise of the modern civil rights movement."-Eric Arnesen, The George Washington University


"Eben Miller's well-researched and interpretively sound Born along the Color Line is a major contribution to 20th-century civil rights literature. This may not be the last word on the significance of the second Amenia Conference, but any further scholarship will begin with his."-David Levering Lewis, author of Du Bois: A Biography


"With his warm biographical portraits and finely honed interpretations Eben Miller has cast a new and valuable light on the generation of black activists and intellectuals who paved the way for the great legal and social victories of the 1950s and 60s. Born along the Color Line should be required reading for anyone who hopes to claim expertise in the history of the modern civil rights movement." -Jonathan Holloway, Yale University


About the Author


Eben Miller teaches at Southern Maine Community College and lives in Lewiston, Maine.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195174550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195174557
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.3 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,043,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Most Americans know something about the Civil Rights revolution of the 1950's -1960's, but the earlier history of the Civil Rights movement remains unfamiliar. Eben Miller's new book, "Born Along the Color Line: The 1933 Amernia Conference and the Rise of a National Civil Rights Movement" discusses the history of civil rights activism during the 1930s and 1940s and introduces the reader to some of the movement's young leaders. Miller teaches at Southern Maine Community College. This book, his first, is an expansion of his doctoral dissertation written at Brandeis University.

The book centers upon a conference held in August, 1933, at the estate of Joel Springarn at Amenia in upstate New York. Springarn, president of the Board of Directors of the NAACP, had hosted an earlier conference at Amenia in 1916. He sponsored the 1933 conference because he feared the NAACP was losing its edge, its support, and sense of direction and needed and infusion of new ideas. Thus, with the assistance of W.E.B. DuBois, Springarn invited 26 promising young African American leaders in their 20s and 30s to Amenia to chart the course for future civil rights activism. The conference took place over a weekend during which meetings were interspersed with time for relaxation and informal discussion. There were no formal minutes of the proceedings, but the conferees produced a short statment of purpose and results at its conclusion.

Miller presents the conference against the backdrop of the Depression. Beginning with its founding in 1909, the NAACP had focused on litigation and on legislation to end lynching. It had gradually come to be seen as an eilitist organization far from the grass roots.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a valuable history of the struggle for civil rights from the early 1930s through World War II. One thesis of the book is that a gathering of young elite African Americans sponsored by the NAACP in 1933 triggered the rise of a national civil rights movement. I'm not sure that the Amenia Conference, as it came to be known, really galvanized anything, but the list of achievements by the attendees is mind-boggling. A second thesis of the book is that the generation that came to leadership in the 1930s saw the struggle for civil rights as being a small part of the working class' struggle against the depredations of capitalism.

The book begins with fascinating biographical sketches of Louis Redding and Abram Harris. Then it describes what happened at the Amenia Conference and its immediate aftermath. The book loses momentum as it describes the conflicts within the movement during the late 1930s and the attempts to link civil rights to the struggle against fascism during World War II. The final chapter on Ralph Bunche's fight against accusations of being a secret Communist is excellent and provides a reminder of how perfectly reasonable ideas expressed in 1933 ended up looking like treason in 1954.

Anyone curious about the civil rights movement in the two decades before the Montgomery Bus Boycott will greatly appreciate this book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a first rate account of a meeting called by the NAACP in August, 1933, that would ultimately be seen as transforming the civil rights movement in the U.S. The meeting was held in Amenia, New York, at the estate of the president of the board of the NAACP and was designed to revitalize the NAACP which was seen as a bit behind in its programs and views on how to improve the lot of blacks in the U.S. The invited guests
were a group of young Black American activists and the results of the conference were to radically change the civil rights movement based on economic strategies being seen as important as the traditional legal and political focus of the NAACP.

The author traces the history of the Amenia Conference and its long reaching results through the lives of five of the participants: Juanita Jackson, youth activist; Ralph Bunche, diplomat; Abram Harris, economist; Louis Redding, lawyer; and Moran Weston, Harlem organizer. These and the other participants in the conference urged the civil rights movement to form alliances with organized labor, demand equal education opportunitiesk, campaign for anti-lynching legislation and free and open access to jobs and voting rights.

The author gives a very interesting biographical account of each of the five conference attendees and recounts their particular contribution to the civil rights movement during the most turbulent economic times the U.S. had ever faced. It is a story of a civil rights movement that was revitalized and refocus in 1933 and not in the 1950s as is popularily believed.

This is one of those rare scholarily books that is written in a reader friendly manner that will appeal to the general reader interested in history and the civil rights movement. I had never heard of the Amenia conference of 1933 and like many always believed the 1950s were the real beginning of the civil rights movement in the U.S. Not so as historian Eben Miller so eloquently points out.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book provides an account of the pre-civil rights era development of the movement for racial equality in the USA. It tells the story of a number of unsung heroes. It is well-written and the author's deep knowledge of the subject is obvious. If you have relatively little knowledge of the civil rights movement in the 1930s you will come away enlightened. However, I suspect this book may appeal most to people with special knowledge or a specialized interest in the subject matter. I found it a bit dry for popular history or perhaps it is just that I wanted to know figures like Juanita Jackson and Ralph Bunch better than I could from the accounts here. This worthwhile book sparked my interest in reading full-length biographies of some of these heroic figures.
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