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Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North Paperback – October 13, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. According to Sugrue (The Origins of the Urban Crises), most histories of the civil rights movement focus on the South and the epic battles between nonviolent protestors and the defenders of Jim Crow during the 1950s and 1960s. The author's groundbreaking account covers a wider time frame and turns the focus northward to the states with the largest black populations outside the south. Sugrue highlights seminal people, books and organizations in his tightly focused study that restores many largely forgotten Northern activists as integral participants in the civil rights movement—such as Philadelphia pastor Leon Sullivan; Roxanne Jones of the welfare rights movement and first black woman elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate; and James Forman, advocate for reparations. The National Negro Congress, the Revolutionary Action Movement and the National Black Political Convention share history with the NAACP and the Urban League, as Sugrue traces the phoenixlike risings from the ashes of old organizations into new. Dense with boycotts, pickets, agitation, riots, lobbying, litigation, and legislation, the book is heavily detailed but consistently readable with unparalleled scope and fresh focus. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Mention the civil rights movement and Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis spring to mind. Rarely do we recall Boston, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. But there was a civil rights movement in the North, Thomas J. Sugrue reminds us in "Sweet Land of Liberty," and it is impossible to understand race relations today without pondering what we can learn from it. Sugrue's exhaustively researched book brings that movement back to life."—New York Times Book Review

"The election of Barack Obama... calls into question the rigid dichotomies that have defined the American conflict over inequality. Thomas Sugrue's evocative and richly documented new book, Sweet Land of Liberty, is well timed because it addresses the most blinding and fundamental of these dichotomies, that between the southern land of slavery and Jim Crow and the ill-defined rest of the country....The book covers more fresh ground than any history of race has in many years. "—Newsday

“With telling detail and crystalline prose, Sugrue has explained the rise, course of, and difficulties inherent in the freedom struggles of black Americans in the North…. Every American historian needs to read it, and so do policymakers.” —Christianity Today, Book-of-the-Week

“Groundbreaking…unparalleled scope and fresh focus.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Sweeping, well-documented history of the struggle for racial equality above the Mason-Dixon Line.”—Kirkus

"How can an administration elected through an appeal to racial transcendence understand—and combat—the tenacity of racialized injustice?…Thomas Sugrue’s book might be the timeliest place to start."—New York Observer

"The struggle for civil rights in the North, often overshadowed, gets a comprehensive review...Sugrue's scholarship is most impressive in his analysis of the social, economic, and political currents that swirled around the activists."—Boston Globe

"Sugrue’s book is something to be celebrated. We all know the injustice that pervaded the South and the struggles of Civil Rights movement to overcome it. But many of us don’t know that many similar obstacles still had to be overcome in the North. Sugrue humanizes the history he tells, using individuals’ narratives to remind us of an important truth: “the struggle for racial equality in the North continues.”—Harvard Crimson

"Sweet Land of Liberty…is to be praised for how it highlights the richness, complexity, and endurance of a long black freedom struggle north of the Mason-Dixon Line. It skillfully guides the reader through many twists and turns over nearly a century of civil rights history. It is a profoundly important book that reminds us that the Civil Rights struggle was a national, not simply a regional phenomenon."—ehistory

"Historian Thomas J. Sugrue writes incisively about racial discrimination in the North...richly detailed."—Wilson Quarterly

"In Sweet Land of Liberty, Sugrue supplies a sweeping and searching re-interpretation of the black freedom struggle north of the Mason-Dixon line from the 1920s to the present."—Tulsa World

“Sugrue’s chronicle covers a pivotal era in American history in a comprehensive sweep.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Book-Pick-of-the-Week”
“The most important work of American history published this year.”—Religion in American History Blogspot

“Brims with insights broadening and deepening understanding of the black-white mold of modern America….Essential for collections on U.S. history, social movements, race relations, or civil rights.” —Library Journal

"Although dozens of books have been written about the struggle for civil rights in the South, this is one of the first documented histories of the fight that occurred north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The author, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania, sifted through government reports, civil rights group records, the work of black journalists and even the personal accounts of ordinary people to document how our political and social institutions created and maintained racial separation and racial privilege. Covering a span from the 1920s through the present, this unconventional and groundbreaking book examines 80 of the most defining years of America's past. This landmark study is elegantly written and nothing less than a stunning achievement."—Tuscon Citizen

Sweet Land of Liberty is a revelatory, daring, and ambitious book that overturns the conventional histories of America’s struggle for civil rights. In this powerful narrative, Thomas Sugrue draws compelling vignettes of the forgotten women and men who fought against the odds for racial justice in the North. He persuasively argues that what happened on the streets, churches, and courtrooms of Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles is every bit as important for understanding modern America as the oft-told histories of the Southern freedom struggle. This is one of those rare books that completely reorients our understanding of the past.”—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. University Professor, Harvard University

“Thomas Sugrue's crisply written and massively sourced book delivers the northern half of the civil rights story with an authority that should make 'Sweet Land of Liberty' indispensable.”—David Levering Lewis, author of a biography of the life and times of W.E.B. Du Bois

"With this landmark study, Thomas Sugrue has accomplished the extraordinary: he’s transformed the history of the civil rights movement, shifting it from the south to the north, from Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma, to Harlem, Levittown, and the mean streets of Detroit. In the process, he’s stripped away the comforting sense shared by so many Americans that the struggle for racial justice is complete, the victory won. If ever a book deserved to be essential reading, this is it." —Kevin Boyle, author of the National Book Award-winning Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age

"Thomas Sugrue's, Sweet Land of Liberty is one of the most important works on modern American history to appear in recent memory. It challenges and transforms what we think, not only about the struggle for civil rights, but more broadly about the entire course of American social and political development. It is one of those books that truly changes our historical perspective."—Steve Hahn, author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration.

"Richly researched, elegantly written, and monumental in scope, Sweet Land of Liberty offers a riveting portrait of racial change in the most putatively free and equal part of the United States. In shifting attention to northern streets and confrontations, this painful yet stirring narrative eloquently enlarges the scope of American history, compellingly extends our understanding of social movements, and thoughtfully reminds us that deep and just change does not come easily."—Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812970381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812970388
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Slavery was a Southern phenomenon, and the civil rights movement, in its most public aspect, focused on the South, a myopic viewpoint that ignored the very real battles that were being fought in the North. There is also a common myth that civil rights as a whole ceased to be a movement of any consequence after the 1960s. SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY addresses both misconceptions.

The author of this extensively researched history is Thomas J. Sugrue, whose first book, THE ORIGINS OF THE URBAN CRISIS, won the prestigious Bancroft Prize in History, the President's Book Award of the Social Science History Association, the Philip Taft Prize in Labor History, the Urban History Association Prize for Best Book in North American Labor History, and was selected as a Choice Outstanding Book. In 2005, Princeton University Press selected THE ORIGINS OF THE URBAN CRISIS as one of its 100 most influential books of the preceding century. Sugrue's academic career has been punctuated with activism, the combination making him well qualified to deal even-handedly with this subject matter. What he has written here is a history of political reality.

It is true that organization and activism came earlier to the North, where during the Great Depression and on through the aftermath of World War II, "devout churchwomen, lawyers, laborers, Democrats, Republicans, Socialists and Communists marched together on picket lines, lobbied public officials and joined in lawsuits against segregated housing and schools." The toil of Northern change agents fostered and informed the tactics used in the South, and the Southern initiatives and successes enheartened Northern activists.
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Format: Hardcover
Far too often the history of the Civil Rights movement in the United States focuses on the south and ends with the passage of the Civil Rights acts under the Johnson Administration. This book does a great job of showing that the North was in many cases as much of a battle ground for the civil rights movement than the south was. While many of the discriminatory laws were not codified like they were in the south, racism was as much of an institution in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York as anywhere else. Also, the north had the growing suburbs which always were opposed to any minority moving into their presence.

If you are interested in an eye opening examination of how the war to defeat racism was really an American fight, then I strong recommend you read Sweet Land of Liberty. It is certainly about the forgotten fight for civil rights.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Few Americans, especially Northern whites, know the story of African Americans seeking equality and justice in the North. Most believe civil rights was a Southern phenomenon. But from the 1920s onward, African Americans in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and other cities struggled for access to restaurant dining, hotels, schools, housing and jobs against a white-dominated system that for years blocked every effort. Thomas Sugre tells their stories with insight and understanding, in a very readable manner.I found Sweet Land of Liberty to be one of the better books on American race relations that I have read, and I have read many as a former professor of American history.
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Format: Hardcover
It isn't enough to know that Southern democrats were racist and oppressed blacks through Jim Crow laws and unjust conditions.

Northern democrats were all too eager to keep blacks in their place, too, and they used the violent labor movement to lock blacks out of factory jobs in the north for most of the 20th century.

You can read W.E.B. DuBois W. E. B. Du Bois: A Reader complaining about this lack of brotherhood and solidarity all through his career -- socialists should stand together, was what he believed.
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