The University of North Carolina Press

Justice, Power, and Politics

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Justice, Power, and Politics

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Black Firefighters and the FDNY

The Struggle for Jobs, Justice, and Equity in New York City

David Goldberg

For many African Americans, getting a public sector job has historically been one of the few paths to the financial stability of the middle class, and in New York City, few such jobs were as sought-after as positions in the fire department (FDNY). For over a century, generations of Black New Yorkers have fought to gain access to and equal opportunity within the FDNY. Tracing this struggle for jobs and justice from 1898 to the present, David Goldberg details the ways each generation of firefighters confronted overt and institutionalized racism. An important chapter in the histories of both Black social movements and independent workplace organizing, this book demonstrates how Black firefighters in New York helped to create affirmative action from the "bottom up," while simultaneously revealing how white resistance to these efforts shaped white working-class conservatism and myths of American meritocracy.

Full of colorful characters and rousing stories drawn from oral histories, discrimination suits, and the archives of the Vulcan Society (the fraternal society of Black firefighters in New York), this book sheds new light on the impact of Black firefighters in the fight for civil rights.

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Blue Texas

The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era

Max Krochmal

This book is about the other Texas, not the state known for its cowboy conservatism, but a mid-twentieth-century hotbed of community organizing, liberal politics, and civil rights activism. Beginning in the 1930s, Max Krochmal tells the story of the decades-long struggle for democracy in Texas, when African American, Mexican American, and white labor and community activists gradually came together to empower the state's marginalized minorities. At the ballot box and in the streets, these diverse activists demanded not only integration but economic justice, labor rights, and real political power for all. Their efforts gave rise to the Democratic Coalition of the 1960s, a militant, multiracial alliance that would take on and eventually overthrow both Jim Crow and Juan Crow.

Using rare archival sources and original oral history interviews, Krochmal reveals the often-overlooked democratic foundations and liberal tradition of one of our nation's most conservative states. Blue Texas remembers the many forgotten activists who, by crossing racial lines and building coalitions, democratized their cities and state to a degree that would have been unimaginable just a decade earlier--and it shows why their story still matters today.

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Building a Latino Civil Rights Movement

Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in New York City

Sonia Song-Ha Lee

In the first book-length history of Puerto Rican civil rights in New York City, Sonia Lee traces the rise and fall of an uneasy coalition between Puerto Rican and African American activists from the 1950s through the 1970s. Previous work has tended to see blacks and Latinos as either naturally unified as "people of color" or irreconcilably at odds as two competing minorities. Lee demonstrates instead that Puerto Ricans and African Americans in New York City shaped the complex and shifting meanings of "Puerto Rican-ness" and "blackness" through political activism. African American and Puerto Rican New Yorkers came to see themselves as minorities joined in the civil rights struggle, the War on Poverty, and the Black Power movement--until white backlash and internal class divisions helped break the coalition, remaking "Hispanicity" as an ethnic identity that was mutually exclusive from "blackness."

Drawing on extensive archival research and oral history interviews, Lee vividly portrays this crucial chapter in postwar New York, revealing the permeability of boundaries between African American and Puerto Rican communities.

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Captive Nation

Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era

Dan Berger

In this pathbreaking book, Berger offers a bold reconsideration of twentieth century black activism, the prison system, and the origins of mass incarceration. Showing that the prison was a central focus of the black radical imagination from the 1950s through the 1980s, Berger traces the dynamic and dramatic history of this political struggle.

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Chained in Silence

Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South

Talitha L. LeFlouria

In 1868, the state of Georgia began to make its rapidly growing population of prisoners available for hire. The resulting convict leasing system ensnared not only men but also African American women, who were forced to labor in camps and factories to make profits for private investors. In this vivid work of history, Talitha L. LeFlouria draws from a rich array of primary sources to piece together the stories of these women, recounting what they endured in Georgia's prison system and what their labor accomplished. LeFlouria argues that African American women's presence within the convict lease and chain-gang systems of Georgia helped to modernize the South by creating a new and dynamic set of skills for black women. At the same time, female inmates struggled to resist physical and sexual exploitation and to preserve their human dignity within a hostile climate of terror. This revealing history redefines the social context of black women's lives and labor in the New South and allows their stories to be told for the first time.

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City of Inmates

Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965

Kelly Lytle Hernández

Los Angeles incarcerates more people than any other city in the United States, which imprisons more people than any other nation on Earth. This book explains how the City of Angels became the capital city of the world's leading incarcerator. Marshaling more than two centuries of evidence, historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez unmasks how histories of native elimination, immigrant exclusion, and black disappearance drove the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles. In this telling, which spans from the Spanish colonial era to the outbreak of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, Hernandez documents the persistent historical bond between the racial fantasies of conquest, namely its settler colonial form, and the eliminatory capacities of incarceration.

But City of Inmates is also a chronicle of resilience and rebellion, documenting how targeted peoples and communities have always fought back. They busted out of jail, forced Supreme Court rulings, advanced revolution across bars and borders, and, as in the summer of 1965, set fire to the belly of the city. With these acts those who fought the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles altered the course of history in the city, the borderlands, and beyond. This book recounts how the dynamics of conquest met deep reservoirs of rebellion as Los Angeles became the City of Inmates, the nation's carceral core. It is a story that is far from over.

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Cuban Revolution in America

Havana and the Making of a United States Left, 1968–1992

Teishan A. Latner

Cuba's grassroots revolution prevailed on America's doorstep in 1959, fueling intense interest within the multiracial American Left even as it provoked a backlash from the U.S. political establishment. In this groundbreaking book, historian Teishan A. Latner contends that in the era of decolonization, the Vietnam War, and Black Power, socialist Cuba claimed center stage for a generation of Americans who looked to the insurgent Third World for inspiration and political theory. As Americans studied the island's achievements in education, health care, and economic redistribution, Cubans in turn looked to U.S. leftists as collaborators in the global battle against inequality and allies in the nation's Cold War struggle with Washington. By forging ties with organizations such as the Venceremos Brigade, the Black Panther Party, and the Cuban American students of the Antonio Maceo Brigade, and by providing political asylum to activists such as Assata Shakur, Cuba became a durable global influence on the U.S. Left.

Drawing from extensive archival and oral history research and declassified FBI and CIA documents, this is the first multidecade examination of the encounter between the Cuban Revolution and the U.S. Left after 1959. By analyzing Cuba's multifaceted impact on American radicalism, Latner contributes to a growing body of scholarship that has globalized the study of U.S. social justice movements.

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A Different Shade of Justice

Asian American Civil Rights in the South

Stephanie Hinnershitz

In the Jim Crow South, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and, later, Vietnamese and Indian Americans faced obstacles similar to those experienced by African Americans in their fight for civil and human rights. Although they were not black, Asian Americans generally were not considered white and thus were subject to school segregation, antimiscegenation laws, and discriminatory business practices. As Asian Americans attempted to establish themselves in the South, they found that institutionalized racism thwarted their efforts time and again. However, this book tells the story of their resistance and documents how Asian American political actors and civil rights activists challenged existing definitions of rights and justice in the South.

From the formation of Chinese and Japanese communities in the early twentieth century through Indian hotel owners' battles against business discrimination in the 1980s and '90s, Stephanie Hinnershitz shows how Asian Americans organized carefully constructed legal battles that often traveled to the state and federal supreme courts. Drawing from legislative and legal records as well as oral histories, memoirs, and newspapers, Hinnershitz describes a movement that ran alongside and at times intersected with the African American fight for justice, and she restores Asian Americans to the fraught legacy of civil rights in the South.

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In Love and Struggle

The Revolutionary Lives of James and Grace Lee Boggs

Stephen M. Ward

James Boggs (1919-1993) and Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015) were two largely unsung but critically important figures in the black freedom struggle. Born and raised in Alabama, James Boggs came to Detroit during the Great Migration, becoming an automobile worker and a union activist. Grace Lee was a Chinese American scholar who studied Hegel, worked with Caribbean political theorist C. L. R. James, and moved to Detroit to work toward a new American revolution. As husband and wife, the couple was influential in the early stages of what would become the Black Power movement, laying the intellectual foundation for racial and urban struggles during one of the most active social movement periods in recent U.S. history.
 
Stephen Ward details both the personal and the political dimensions of the Boggses' lives, highlighting the vital contributions these two figures made to black activist thinking. At once a dual biography of two crucial figures and a vivid portrait of Detroit as a center of activism, Ward's book restores the Boggses, and the intellectual strain of black radicalism they shaped, to their rightful place in postwar American history.

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Knocking on Labor’s Door

Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide

Lane Windham

The power of unions in workers' lives and in the American political system has declined dramatically since the 1970s. In recent years, many have argued that the crisis took root when unions stopped reaching out to workers and workers turned away from unions. But here Lane Windham tells a different story. Highlighting the integral, often-overlooked contributions of women, people of color, young workers, and southerners, Windham reveals how in the 1970s workers combined old working-class tools--like unions and labor law--with legislative gains from the civil and women's rights movements to help shore up their prospects. Through close-up studies of workers' campaigns in shipbuilding, textiles, retail, and service, Windham overturns widely held myths about labor's decline, showing instead how employers united to manipulate weak labor law and quash a new wave of worker organizing.

Recounting how employees attempted to unionize against overwhelming odds, Knocking on Labor's Door dramatically refashions the narrative of working-class struggle during a crucial decade and shakes up current debates about labor's future. Windham's story inspires both hope and indignation, and will become a must-read in labor, civil rights, and women's history.

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