University of Pennsylvania Press

Politics and Culture in Modern America

Series Editors: Margot Canaday, Glenda Gilmore, Michael Kazin, Thomas J. Sugrue

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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Politics and Culture in Modern America

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From Civil Rights to Human Rights

Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice

By Thomas F. Jackson

Martin Luther King, Jr., is widely celebrated as an American civil rights hero. Yet King's nonviolent opposition to racism, militarism, and economic injustice had deeper roots and more radical implications than is commonly appreciated, Thomas F. Jackson argues in this searching reinterpretation of King's public ministry. Between the 1940s and the 1960s, King was influenced by and in turn reshaped the political cultures of the black freedom movement and democratic left. His vision of unfettered human rights drew on the diverse tenets of the African American social gospel, socialism, left-New Deal liberalism, Gandhian philosophy, and Popular Front internationalism.

King's early leadership reached beyond southern desegregation and voting rights. As the freedom movement of the 1950s and early 1960s confronted poverty and economic reprisals, King championed trade union rights, equal job opportunities, metropolitan integration, and full employment. When the civil rights and antipoverty policies of the Johnson administration failed to deliver on the movement's goals of economic freedom for all, King demanded that the federal government guarantee jobs, income, and local power for poor people. When the Vietnam war stalled domestic liberalism, King called on the nation to abandon imperialism and become a global force for multiracial democracy and economic justice.

Drawing widely on published and unpublished archival sources, Jackson explains the contexts and meanings of King's increasingly open call for "a radical redistribution of political and economic power" in American cities, the nation, and the world. The mid-1960s ghetto uprisings were in fact revolts against unemployment, powerlessness, police violence, and institutionalized racism, King argued. His final dream, a Poor People's March on Washington, aimed to mobilize Americans across racial and class lines to reverse a national cycle of urban conflict, political backlash, and policy retrenchment. King's vision of economic democracy and international human rights remains a powerful inspiration for those committed to ending racism and poverty in our time.

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Homeless

Poverty and Place in Urban America

By Ella Howard

The homeless have the legal right to exist in modern American cities, yet antihomeless ordinances deny them access to many public spaces. How did previous generations of urban dwellers deal with the tensions between the rights of the homeless and those of other city residents? Ella Howard answers this question by tracing the history of skid rows from their rise in the late nineteenth century to their eradication in the mid-twentieth century.

Focusing on New York's infamous Bowery, Homeless analyzes the efforts of politicians, charity administrators, social workers, urban planners, and social scientists as they grappled with the problem of homelessness. The development of the Bowery from a respectable entertainment district to the nation's most infamous skid row offers a lens through which to understand national trends of homelessness and the complex relationship between poverty and place. Maintained by cities across the country as a type of informal urban welfare, skid rows anchored the homeless to a specific neighborhood, offering inhabitants places to eat, drink, sleep, and find work while keeping them comfortably removed from the urban middle classes. This separation of the homeless from the core of city life fostered simplistic and often inaccurate understandings of their plight. Most efforts to assist them centered on reforming their behavior rather than addressing structural economic concerns.

By midcentury, as city centers became more valuable, urban renewal projects and waves of gentrification destroyed skid rows and with them the public housing and social services they offered. With nowhere to go, the poor scattered across the urban landscape into public spaces, only to confront laws that effectively criminalized behavior associated with abject poverty. Richly detailed, Homeless lends insight into the meaning of homelessness and poverty in twentieth-century America and offers us a new perspective on the modern welfare system.

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In the Crossfire

Marcus Foster and the Troubled History of American School Reform

By John P. Spencer

As media reports declare crisis after crisis in public education, Americans find themselves hotly debating educational inequalities that seem to violate their nation's ideals. Why does success in school track so closely with race and socioeconomic status? How to end these apparent achievement gaps? In the Crossfire brings historical perspective to these debates by tracing the life and work of Marcus Foster, an African American educator who struggled to reform urban schools in the 1960s and early 1970s.

As a teacher, principal, and superintendent—first in his native Philadelphia and eventually in Oakland, California—Foster made success stories of urban schools and children whom others had dismissed as hopeless, only to be assassinated in 1973 by the previously unknown Symbionese Liberation Army in a bizarre protest against an allegedly racist school system. Foster's story encapsulates larger social changes in the decades after World War II: the great black migration from South to North, the civil rights movement, the decline of American cities, and the ever-increasing emphasis on education as a ticket to success. Well before the accountability agenda of the No Child Left Behind Act or the rise of charter schools, Americans came into sharp conflict over urban educational failure, with some blaming the schools and others pointing to conditions in homes and neighborhoods. By focusing on an educator who worked in the trenches and had a reputation for bridging divisions, In the Crossfire sheds new light on the continuing ideological debates over race, poverty, and achievement.

Foster charted a course between the extremes of demanding too little and expecting too much of schools as agents of opportunity in America. He called for accountability not only from educators but also from families, taxpayers, and political and economic institutions. His effort to mobilize multiple constituencies was a key to his success—and a lesson for educators and policymakers who would take aim at achievement gaps without addressing the full range of school and nonschool factors that create them.

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Intellectuals Incorporated

Politics, Art, and Ideas Inside Henry Luce's Media Empire

By Robert Vanderlan

Publishing tycoon Henry Luce famously championed many conservative causes, and his views as a capitalist and cold warrior were reflected in his glossy publications. Republican Luce aimed squarely for the Middle American masses, yet his magazines attracted intellectually and politically ambitious minds who were moved by the democratic aspirations of the New Deal and the left. Much of the best work of intellectuals such as James Agee, Archibald MacLeish, Daniel Bell, John Hersey, and Walker Evans owes a great debt to their experiences writing for Luce and his publications.

Intellectuals Incorporated tells the story of the serious writers and artists who worked for Henry Luce and his magazines Time, Fortune, and Life between 1923 and 1960, the period when the relationship between intellectuals, the culture industry, and corporate capitalism assumed its modern form. Countering the notions that working for corporations means selling out and that the true life of the mind must be free from institutional ties, historian Robert Vanderlan explains how being embedded in the corporate culture industries was vital to the creative efforts of mid-century thinkers. Illuminating their struggles through careful research and biographical vignettes, Vanderlan shows how their contributions to literary journalism and the wider political culture would have been impossible outside Luce's media empire. By paying attention to how these writers and photographers balanced intellectual aspiration with journalistic perspiration, Intellectuals Incorporated advances the idea of the intellectual as a connected public figure who can engage and criticize organizations from within.

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Let Us Fight as Free Men

Black Soldiers and Civil Rights

By Christine Knauer

Today, the military is one the most racially diverse institutions in the United States. But for many decades African American soldiers battled racial discrimination and segregation within its ranks. In the years after World War II, the integration of the armed forces was a touchstone in the homefront struggle for equality—though its importance is often overlooked in contemporary histories of the civil rights movement. Drawing on a wide array of sources, from press reports and newspapers to organizational and presidential archives, historian Christine Knauer recounts the conflicts surrounding black military service and the fight for integration.

Let Us Fight as Free Men shows that, even after their service to the nation in World War II, it took the persistent efforts of black soldiers, as well as civilian activists and government policy changes, to integrate the military. In response to unjust treatment during and immediately after the war, African Americans pushed for integration on the strength of their service despite the oppressive limitations they faced on the front and at home. Pressured by civil rights activists such as A. Philip Randolph, President Harry S. Truman passed an executive order that called for equal treatment in the military. Even so, integration took place haltingly and was realized only after the political and strategic realities of the Korean War forced the Army to allow black soldiers to fight alongside their white comrades. While the war pushed the civil rights struggle beyond national boundaries, it also revealed the persistence of racial discrimination and exposed the limits of interracial solidarity.

Let Us Fight as Free Men reveals the heated debates about the meaning of military service, manhood, and civil rights strategies within the African American community and the United States as a whole.

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Mapping Decline

St. Louis and the Fate of the American City

By Colin Gordon

Once a thriving metropolis on the banks of the Mississippi, St. Louis, Missouri, is now a ghostly landscape of vacant houses, boarded-up storefronts, and abandoned factories. The Gateway City is, by any measure, one of the most depopulated, deindustrialized, and deeply segregated examples of American urban decay. "Not a typical city," as one observer noted in the late 1970s, "but, like a Eugene O'Neill play, it shows a general condition in a stark and dramatic form."

Mapping Decline examines the causes and consequences of St. Louis's urban crisis. It traces the complicity of private real estate restrictions, local planning and zoning, and federal housing policies in the "white flight" of people and wealth from the central city. And it traces the inadequacy—and often sheer folly—of a generation of urban renewal, in which even programs and resources aimed at eradicating blight in the city ended up encouraging flight to the suburbs. The urban crisis, as this study of St. Louis makes clear, is not just a consequence of economic and demographic change; it is also the most profound political failure of our recent history.

Mapping Decline is the first history of a modern American city to combine extensive local archival research with the latest geographic information system (GIS) digital mapping techniques. More than 75 full-color maps—rendered from census data, archival sources, case law, and local planning and property records—illustrate, in often stark and dramatic ways, the still-unfolding political history of our neglected cities.

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Moral Minority

The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism

By David R. Swartz

In 1973, nearly a decade before the height of the Moral Majority, a group of progressive activists assembled in a Chicago YMCA to strategize about how to move the nation in a more evangelical direction through political action. When they emerged, the Washington Post predicted that the new evangelical left could "shake both political and religious life in America." The following decades proved the Post both right and wrong—evangelical participation in the political sphere was intensifying, but in the end it was the religious right, not the left, that built a viable movement and mobilized electorally. How did the evangelical right gain a moral monopoly and why were evangelical progressives, who had shown such promise, left behind?

In Moral Minority, the first comprehensive history of the evangelical left, David R. Swartz sets out to answer these questions, charting the rise, decline, and political legacy of this forgotten movement. Though vibrant in the late nineteenth century, progressive evangelicals were in eclipse following religious controversies of the early twentieth century, only to reemerge in the 1960s and 1970s. They stood for antiwar, civil rights, and anticonsumer principles, even as they stressed doctrinal and sexual fidelity. Politically progressive and theologically conservative, the evangelical left was also remarkably diverse, encompassing groups such as Sojourners, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Evangelicals for Social Action, and the Association for Public Justice. Swartz chronicles the efforts of evangelical progressives who expanded the concept of morality from the personal to the social and showed the way—organizationally and through political activism—to what would become the much larger and more influential evangelical right. By the 1980s, although they had witnessed the election of Jimmy Carter, the nation's first born-again president, progressive evangelicals found themselves in the political wilderness, riven by identity politics and alienated by a skeptical Democratic Party and a hostile religious right.

In the twenty-first century, evangelicals of nearly all political and denominational persuasions view social engagement as a fundamental responsibility of the faithful. This most dramatic of transformations is an important legacy of the evangelical left.

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Not in This Family

Gays and the Meaning of Kinship in Postwar North America

By Heather Murray

Many Americans hold fast to the notion that gay men and women, more often than not, have been ostracized from disapproving families. Not in This Family challenges this myth and shows how kinship ties have been an animating force in gay culture, politics, and consciousness throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.

Historian Heather Murray gives voice to gays and their parents through an extensive use of introspective writings, particularly personal correspondence and diaries, as well as through published memoirs, fiction, poetry, song lyrics, movies, and visual and print media. Starting in the late 1940s and 1950s, Not in This Family covers the entire postwar period, including the gay liberation and lesbian feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the establishment of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. Ending her story with an examination of contemporary coming-out rituals, Murray shows how the personal that was once private became political and, finally, public.

In exploring the intimate, reciprocal relationship of gay children and their parents, Not in This Family also chronicles larger cultural shifts in privacy, discretion and public revelation, and the very purpose of family relations. Murray shows that private bedrooms and consumer culture, social movements and psychological fashions, all had a part to play in transforming the modern family.

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Pan American Women

U.S. Internationalists and Revolutionary Mexico

By Megan Threlkeld

In the years following World War I, women activists in the United States and Europe saw themselves as leaders of a globalizing movement to promote women's rights and international peace. In hopes of advancing alliances, U.S. internationalists such as Jane Addams, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Doris Stevens reached across the border to their colleagues in Mexico, including educator Margarita Robles de Mendoza and feminist Hermila Galindo. They established new organizations, sponsored conferences, and rallied for peaceful relations between the two countries. But diplomatic tensions and the ongoing Mexican Revolution complicated their efforts.

In Pan American Women, Megan Threlkeld chronicles the clash of political ideologies between U.S. and Mexican women during an era of war and revolution. Promoting a "human internationalism" (in the words of Addams), U.S. women overestimated the universal acceptance of their ideas. They considered nationalism an ethos to be overcome, while the revolutionary spirit of Mexico inspired female citizens there to embrace ideas and reforms that focused on their homeland. Although U.S. women gradually became less imperialistic in their outlook and more sophisticated in their organizational efforts, they could not overcome the deep divide between their own vision of international cooperation and Mexican women's nationalist aspirations.

Pan American Women exposes the tensions of imperialism, revolutionary nationalism, and internationalism that challenged women's efforts to build an inter-American movement for peace and equality, in the process demonstrating the importance of viewing women's political history through a wider geographic lens.

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Peace and Freedom

The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements in the 1960s

By Simon Hall

Two great social causes held center stage in American politics in the 1960s: the civil rights movement and the antiwar groundswell in the face of a deepening American military commitment in Vietnam. In Peace and Freedom, Simon Hall explores two linked themes: the civil rights movement's response to the war in Vietnam on the one hand and, on the other, the relationship between the black groups that opposed the war and the mainstream peace movement. Based on comprehensive archival research, the book weaves together local and national stories to offer an illuminating and judicious chronicle of these movements, demonstrating how their increasingly radicalized components both found common cause and provoked mutual antipathies.

Peace and Freedom shows how and why the civil rights movement responded to the war in differing ways—explaining black militants' hostility toward the war while also providing a sympathetic treatment of those organizations and leaders reluctant to take a stand. And, while Black Power, counterculturalism, and left-wing factionalism all made interracial coalition-building more difficult, the book argues that it was the peace movement's reluctance to link the struggle to end the war with the fight against racism at home that ultimately prevented the two movements from cooperating more fully. Considering the historical relationship between the civil rights movement and foreign policy, Hall also offers an in-depth look at the history of black America's links with the American left and with pacifism.

With its keen insights into one of the most controversial decades in American history, Peace and Freedom recaptures the immediacy and importance of the time.

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