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A Decisive Decade Cover

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A Decisive Decade

An Insider's View of the Chicago Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s

Robert B. McKersie, Foreword by James R. Ralph Jr.

The deeply personal story of a historic time in Chicago, Robert B. McKersie’s A Decisive Decade follows the unfolding action of the Civil Rights Movement as it played out in the Windy City. McKersie’s participation as a white activist for black rights offers a unique, firsthand viewpoint on the debates, boycotts, marches, and negotiations that would forever change the face of race relations in Chicago and the United States at large.

Described within are McKersie’s intimate observations on events as they developed during his participation in such historic occasions as the impassioned marches for open housing in Chicago; the campaign to end school segregation under Chicago Schools Superintendent Benjamin Willis; Operation Breadbasket’s push to develop economic opportunities for black citizens; and dialogs with corporations to provide more jobs for blacks in Chicago. In addition, McKersie provides up close and personal descriptions of the iconic Civil Rights leaders who spearheaded some of the most formative battles of Chicago’s Civil Rights movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Jesse Jackson, Timuel Black Jr. and W. Alvin Pitcher. The author illumines the tensions experienced by two major institutions in responding to the demands of the civil rights movement: the university and the church. Packed with historical detail and personal anecdotes of these history-making years, A Decisive Decade offers a never-before-seen perspective on one of our nation’s most tumultuous eras. 

Deep River Cover

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Deep River

A Memoir of a Missouri Farm

David Hamilton

Deep River uncovers the layers of history—both personal and regional—that have accumulated on a river-bottom farm in west-central Missouri. This land was part of a late frontier, passed over, then developed through the middle of the last century as the author's father and uncle cleared a portion of it and established their farm.

Hamilton traces the generations of Native Americans, frontiersmen, settlers, and farmers who lived on and alongside the bottomland over the past two centuries. It was a region fought over by Union militia and Confederate bushwhackers, as well as by their respective armies; an area that invited speculation and the establishment of several small towns, both before and after the Civil War; land on which the Missouri Indians made their long last stand, less as a military force than as a settlement and civilization; land that attracted French explorers, the first Europeans to encounter the Missouris and their relatives, the Ioways, Otoes, and Osage, a century before Lewis and Clark. It is land with a long history of occupation and use, extending millennia before the Missouris. Most recently it was briefly and intensively receptive to farming before being restored in large part as state-managed wetlands.

Deep River is composed of four sections, each exploring aspects of the farm and its neighborhood. While the family story remains central to each, slavery and the Civil War in the nineteenth century and Native American history in the centuries before that become major themes as well. The resulting portrait is both personal memoir and informal history, brought up from layers of time, the compound of which forms an emblematic American story.

Degrees of Freedom Cover

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Degrees of Freedom

The Origins of Civil Rights in Minnesota, 1865–1912

William D. Green

He had just given a rousing speech to a crammed assembly in St. Paul, but Frederick Douglass, confidant to the Great Emancipator himself and conscience of the Republican Party, was denied a hotel room because he was black. This was Minnesota in 1873, four years after the state had approved black suffrage—a state where “freedom” meant being unshackled from chains but not social restrictions, where “equality” meant access to the ballot but not to a hotel or restaurant downtown.

Spanning the half century after the Civil War, Degrees of Freedom draws a rare picture of black experience in a northern state of this period and of the nature of black discontent and action within a predominantly white, ostensibly progressive society. William D. Green brings to light a full cast of little-known historical characters among the black men and women who moved to Minnesota following the Fifteenth Amendment; worked as farmhands and laborers; built communities (such as Pig’s Eye Landing, later renamed St. Paul), businesses, and a newspaper (the Western Appeal); and embodied the slow but inexorable advancement of race relations in the state over time. Within this absorbing, often surprising, narrative we meet “ordinary” citizens, like former slave and early settler Jim Thompson and black barbers catering to a white clientele, but also outsize figures of national stature, such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. Du Bois, all of whom championed civil rights in Minnesota. And we see how, in a state where racial prejudice and oppression wore a liberal mask, black settlers and entrepreneurs, politicians, and activists maneuvered within a restricted political arena to bring about real and lasting change.

The Depression Comes to the South Side Cover

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The Depression Comes to the South Side

Protest and Politics in the Black Metropolis, 1930-1933

Christopher Robert Reed

In the 1920s, the South Side was looked on as the new Black Metropolis, but by the turn of the decade that vision was already in decline -- a victim of the Depression. In this timely book, Christopher Robert Reed explores early Depression-era politics on Chicago's South Side. The economic crisis caused diverse responses from groups in the black community, distinguished by their political ideologies and stated goals. Some favored government intervention, others reform of social services. Some found expression in mass street demonstrations, militant advocacy of expanded civil rights, or revolutionary calls for a complete overhaul of the capitalist economic system. Reed examines the complex interactions among these various groups as they played out within the community as it sought to find common ground to address the economic stresses that threatened to tear the Black Metropolis apart.

The Depression Dilemmas of Rural Iowa, 1929-1933 Cover

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The Depression Dilemmas of Rural Iowa, 1929-1933

Lisa L. Ossian

 
To many rural Iowans, the stock market crash on New York’s Wall Street in October 1929 seemed an event far removed from their lives, even though the effects of the crash became all too real throughout the state. From 1929 to 1933, the enthusiastic faith that most Iowans had in Iowan President Herbert Hoover was transformed into bitter disappointment with the federal government. As a result, Iowans directly questioned their leadership at the state, county, and community levels with a renewed spirit to salvage family farms, demonstrating the uniqueness of Iowa’s rural life. 

 

Beginning with an overview of the state during 1929, Lisa L. Ossian describes Iowa’s particular rural dilemmas, evoking, through anecdotes and examples, the economic, nutritional, familial, cultural, industrial, criminal, legal, and political challenges that engaged the people of the state. The following chapters analyze life during the early Depression:  new prescriptions for children’s health, creative housekeeping to stretch resources, the use of farm “playlets” to communicate new information creatively and memorably, the demise of the soft coal mining industry, increased violence within the landscape, and the movement to end Prohibition.

 

The challenges faced in the early Great Depression years between 1929 and 1933 encouraged resourcefulness rather than passivity, creativity rather than resignation, and community rather than hopelessness. Of particular interest is the role of women within the rural landscape, as much of the increased daily work fell to farm women during this time. While the women addressed this work simply as “making do,” Ossian shows that their resourcefulness entailed complex planning essential for families’ emotional and physical health.

 

Ossian’s epilogue takes readers into the Iowa of today, dominated by industrial agriculture, and asks the reader to consider if this model that stemmed from Depression-era innovation is sustainable. Her rich rural history not only helps readers understand the particular forces at work that shaped the social and physical landscape of the past but also traces how these landscapes have continued in various forms for almost eighty years into this century.

Derelict Paradise Cover

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Derelict Paradise

Homelessness and Urban Development in Cleveland, Ohio

Daniel Kerr

Seeking answers to the question, "Who benefits from homelessness?" this book takes the reader on a sweeping tour of Cleveland's history from the late nineteenth-century through the early twenty-first. Daniel Kerr shows that homelessness has deep roots in the shifting ground of urban labor markets, social policy, downtown development, the criminal justice system, and corporate power. Rather than being attributable to the illnesses and inadequacies of the unhoused themselves, it is a product of both structural and political dynamics shaping the city. Kerr locates the origins of today's shelter system in the era that followed the massive railroad rebellions of 1877. From that period through the Great Depression, business and political leaders sought to transform downtown Cleveland to their own advantage. As they focused on bringing business travelers and tourists to the city and beckoned upper-income residents to return to its center, they demolished two downtown working-class neighborhoods and institutionalized a shelter system to contain and control the unhoused and unemployed. The precedents from this period informed the strategies of the post–World War II urban renewal era as the "new urbanism" of the late twentieth century. The efforts of the city's elites have not gone uncontested. Kerr documents a rich history of opposition by people at the margins of whose organized resistance and everyday survival strategies have undermined the grand plans crafted by the powerful and transformed the institutions designed to constrain the lives of the homeless.

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Detroit

City of Race and Class Violence, Revised Edition

B. J. Widick

Beginning with the legacy of the Ku Klux Klan and the industrial tyranny of the early twentieth century, Detroit: City of Race and Class Violence charts Detroit’s bitter history through the birth of industrial unionism, war time, the 1967 riots, and their effect on the city today. This revised edition pays particular attention to events since 1967: city politics, unemployment, and the creation of suburban boomtowns.

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Detroit Country Music

Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Rockabillies

Craig Maki

The richness of Detroit’s music history has by now been well established. We know all about Motown, the MC5, and Iggy and the Stooges. We also know about the important part the Motor City has played in the history of jazz. But there are stories about the music of Detroit that remain untold. One of the lesser known but nonetheless fascinating histories is contained within Detroit’s country music roots. At last, Craig Maki and Keith Cady bring to light Detroit’s most important country and western and bluegrass stars, such as Chief Redbird, the York Brothers, and Roy Hall. Beyond the individuals, Maki and Cady also map out the labels, radio programs, and performance venues that sustained Detroit’s vibrant country and bluegrass music scene. In the process, Detroit Country Music examines how and why the city’s growth in the early twentieth century, particularly the southern migration tied to the auto industry, led to this vibrant roots music scene. This is the first book—the first resource of any kind—to tell the story of Detroit’s contributions to country music. Craig Maki and Keith Cady have spent two decades collecting music and images, and visiting veteran musicians to amass more than seventy interviews about country music in Detroit. Just as astounding as the book’s revelations are the photographs, most of which have never been published before. Detroit Country Music will be essential reading for music historians, record collectors, roots music fans, and Detroit music aficionados.

Detroit Cover

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Detroit

Race Riots, Racial Conflicts, and Efforts to Bridge the Racial Divide

Joe T. Darden and Richard Thomas

Episodes of racial conflict in Detroit form just one facet of the city’s storied and legendary history, and they have sometimes overshadowed the less widely known but equally important occurrence of interracial cooperation in seeking solutions to the city’s problems. The conflicts also present many opportunities to analyze, learn from, and interrogate the past in order to help lay the groundwork for a stronger, more equitable future. This astute and prudent history poses a number of critical questions: Why and where have race riots occurred in Detroit? How has the racial climate changed or remained the same since the riots? What efforts have occurred since the riots to reduce racial inequality and conflicts, and to build bridges across racial divides? Unique among books on the subject, Detroit pays special attention to post-1967 social and political developments in the city, and expands upon the much-explored black-white dynamic to address the influx of more recent populations to Detroit: Middle Eastern Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. Crucially, the book explores the role of place of residence, spatial mobility, and spatial inequality as key factors in determining access to opportunities such as housing, education, employment, and other amenities, both in the suburbs and in the city.

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