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Living as Equals

How Three White Communities Struggled to Make Interracial Connections During the Civil Rights Era

Phyllis Palmer

Publication Year: 2008

Using interviews with leaders and participants, as well as historical archives, the author documents three interracial sites where white Americans put themselves into unprecedented relationships with African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Asian Americans. In teen summer camps in the New York City and Los Angeles areas, students from largely segregated schools worked and played together; in Washington, DC, families fought blockbusting and white flight to build an integrated neighborhood; and in San Antonio, white community activists joined in coalition with Mexican American groups to advocate for power in a city government monopolized by Anglos. Women often took the lead in organizations that were upsetting patterns of men's protective authority at the same time as white people's racial dominance.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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Title Page

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Table of Contents

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p. vii

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p. ix

This project was completed over many years with advice, encouragement, and assistance from many friends, colleagues, and others who offered insights, information, and inspiration. I am certain to miss some of you in these acknowledgments, but I appreciated your help. I thank the American Council of Learned Societies for its tangible aid of a year’s sabbatical research in 1993–1994 and the George Washington...

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pp. 1-24

I grew up in a postwar America devoted to church attendance, house pride, and celebration of the nation’s generosity. All these came together each Sunday, first at the neighborhood Methodist church, and then at a lavish midday meal. We dressed carefully in fresh clothes for Sunday...

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Chapter 1. Camping for Democracy

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pp. 25-57

In the summer of 1959, a bright, almost fifteen-year-old blond rode from Long Island into Manhattan. Her parents dropped her at a rank of buses waiting to transport a couple hundred of the region’s teenagers to a rural campsite. An academic leader and school newspaper editor, Gail Kern...

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Chapter 2. Respecting All the Brothers and Sisters

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pp. 58-92

In the hard summer of 1968, just after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in early April and Robert Kennedy’s in early June, thirteen-year-old Julie Cohen arrived at NCCJ’s Brotherhood Camp from a liberal, North... Hollywood, white Jewish household. She anticipated a week of interesting conversations, but when she located her cabin, she remembers, “I felt...

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Chapter 3. Making a Neighborhood

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pp. 93-136

“The shadows are coming; the shadows are coming,” a man intoned ominously on the other end of Janet Brown’s telephone line. Inside her large well-built home, the white housewife listened to the persistent real estate agent who had waited until the man of the house left for work to warn her that she and her young children might soon find their leafy, quiet neighborhood ...

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Chapter 4. Abiding Together

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pp. 137-169

Late in 1964, at a meeting of Neighbors Inc.’s Housing Recruitment Committee, a black member of the committee raised the question of “whom we wish to recruit.” If the goal was to seek out white families, then what role did a black man have in the organization or, indeed, in the neighborhood? White members defended the committee’s focus on white home seekers ...

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Chapter 5. The Limits of White Anglo Benevolence

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pp. 170-203

In 1948, an unprecedented coalition of African American, Mexican American, and Anglo American liberals contested two local school elections in San Antonio, Texas. A group of youngish, New Deal–oriented men and women, inspired by New England–educated Unitarian minister Bill Lovely, formed the predominantly white Organized Voters League to...

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Chapter 6. A Victory of Multicultural Collaboration

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pp. 204-236

In the late 1960s, some San Antonio high school students walked a picket line in front of a local grocery store, alerting customers not to buy grapes from farms whose owners would not bargain with a workers’ union. Andy Hernandez, a brash, smart, talkative young Methodist, participated regularly...

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pp. 237-246

During the civil rights movement African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, various communities of Asian Americans, and other groups racialized as nonwhite held up an image of the United States at odds with the one most white Americans had of themselves and of their nation. These peoples of color used historic U.S. rhetoric to advocate that...


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pp. 247-290


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pp. 291-299

E-ISBN-13: 9780826592446
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826515964
Print-ISBN-10: 0826515967

Page Count: 318
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 636996055
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Living as Equals

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Racism -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  • United States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century
  • Race discrimination -- United States -- History -- 20th century
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