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Toward Freedom Land

The Long Struggle for Racial Equality in America

Harvard Sitkoff

Publication Year: 2010

The ongoing struggle for civil rights and social justice lies at the heart of America’s evolving identity. The pursuit of equal rights is often met with social and political trepidation, forcing citizens and leaders to grapple with controversial issues of race, class, and gender. Renowned scholar Harvard Sitkoff has devoted his life to the study of the civil rights movement, becoming a key figure in global human rights discussions and an authority on American liberalism. Toward Freedom Land assembles Sitkoff ’s writings on twentieth-century race relations, representing some of the finest race-related historical research on record. Spanning thirty-five years of Sitkoff ’s distingushed career, the collection features an in-depth examination of the Great Depression and its effects on African Americans, the intriguing story of the labor movement and its relationship to African American workers, and a discussion of the effects of World War II on the civil rights movement. His precise analysis illuminates multifaceted racial issues including the New Deal’s impact on race relations, the Detroit Riot of 1943, and connections between African Americans, Jews, and the Holocaust.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front Cover

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Title Page

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p. vi-vi

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p. vii-vii

Many have made this volume possible. Over four decades, my intellectual debts have mushroomed far beyond my ability to list or remember. I only hope my friends and colleagues are aware of how deep my gratitude is for their candid counsel and critiques, for their nurturing of me, and for the genuine and generous inspiration they...

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pp. 1-9

In the pages that follow I have assembled a selection of my essays on the “long” black freedom struggle. Written over the course of five decades, they exemplify my sustained interest in a cluster of themes associated with the struggle for racial justice and equality. In rereading these essays for inclusion in this book, I was sorely tempted to tidy up some of the prose, temper or amplify a few...

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The Preconditions for Racial Change

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pp. 11-20

Part of a much longer essay that dealt with the sources of the black freedom movement, its evolving ideologies, and the political responses, this excerpt sketching the preconditions for racial change was frequently reprinted and often rebuked. It was written in the early 1970s, when most textbooks commonly ascribed the civil rights movement to the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that...

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The New Deal and Race Relations

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pp. 21-42

None of my scholarly accomplishments has made me more proud than the fact that A New Deal for Blacks, a slightly revised version of my doctoral dissertation, has been in continuous print for more than three decades and was recently republished by Oxford University Press in a special Thirtieth Anniversary Edition. It was initially praised for presenting a comprehensive account of the many developments...

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The Detroit Race Riot of 1943

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pp. 43-64

My initial scholarly publication proudly wore my heart on its sleeve. The first of what would be several essays exploring the diverse impacts of the Second World War on civil rights and race relations began with a research trip to Detroit in 1967. I arrived in the Motor City just one week after its massive race riot that summer. What I saw and heard from Detroit blacks, and the contrary views being expressed by many...

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Racial Militancy and Interracial Violence in the Second World War

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pp. 65-91

To many, “Racial Militancy and Interracial Violence in the Second World War” appeared to be merely a variation on the theme of the Detroit race riot article published two years earlier. It was similarly praised by New Leftist historians for describing “the brutality toward and degradation of black soldiers during World War II, the military’s...

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African American Militancy in the World War II South

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pp. 93-128

“African American Militancy in the World War II South: Another Perspective” developed from a lecture I gave in 1995 at the University of Southern Mississippi’s second Charles W. Moorman Symposium, “World War II and the American South: The War that Drove Old Dixie Down.” It was one of several talks I gave on the fiftieth anniversary of...

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Willkie as Liberal

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pp. 129-145

In 1991 I accepted an invitation from Indiana University to participate in a celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of Wendell Willkie’s birth. My earlier work on the 1930s and 1940s had left me intrigued by this midwestern Republican’s involvement in civil rights matters. Now I had a reason to do further research on how and why he...

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African Americans, American Jews, and the Holocaust

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pp. 147-173

One of several essays written by historians for a volume to honor our mentor William Leuchtenburg, “African Americans, American Jews, and the Holocaust” is my last published essay on the Second World War. Stimulated by the rancor surrounding the debate on most everything about the black-Jewish coalition, I sought to explicate how leaders...

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Harry Truman and the Election of 1948: The Coming of Age of Civil Rights in American Politics

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pp. 175-196

Yet another essay written in the late 1960s, when I proudly considered myself a New Leftist, “Harry Truman and the Election of 1948” began as a bill of indictment, a categorical denunciation of liberals for doing too little, too late. It then became a critique of Truman as, at best, a reluctant champion of civil rights, pressured by forces beyond his control. It concluded, nevertheless, with civil rights benefiting from being...

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Martin Luther King Jr.: Seeing Lazarus, 1967–1968

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pp. 197-213

I had long thought of writing a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. Friends repeatedly dissuaded me. What civil rights historians favored, in the main, were social rather than political studies, books that focused on ordinary folk, not leaders; women, not men; revolutionaries, not ...

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The Second Reconstruction

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pp. 215-224

To commemorate the coming twentieth anniversary of the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the editors of The Wilson Quarterly asked me to introduce their special issue assessing black gains and setbacks with a brief overview of the developments that led Congress to pass that ...


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pp. 225-232

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813173801
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813125831

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Race discrimination -- United States -- History -- 20th century
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