Between 1958 and 1970, a distinctive movement for racial justice emerged from unique circumstances in Milwaukee. A series of local leaders inspired growing numbers of people to participate in campaigns against employment and housing discrimination, segregated public schools, the membership of public officials in discriminatory organizations, welfare cuts, and police brutality.
The Milwaukee movement culminated in the dramatic—and sometimes violent—1967 open housing campaign. A white Catholic priest, James Groppi, led the NAACP Youth Council and Commandos in a militant struggle that lasted for 200 consecutive nights and provoked the ire of thousands of white residents. After working-class mobs attacked demonstrators, some called Milwaukee “the Selma of the North.” Others believed the housing campaign represented the last stand for a nonviolent, interracial, church-based movement.
Patrick Jones tells a powerful and dramatic story that is important for its insights into civil rights history: the debate over nonviolence and armed self-defense, the meaning of Black Power, the relationship between local and national movements, and the dynamic between southern and northern activism. Jones offers a valuable contribution to movement history in the urban North that also adds a vital piece to the national story.
Think you know the full story of the civil rights era? Patrick Jones's masterful study of the movement in Milwaukee will make you think again. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, The Selma of the North provides a devastating rebuttal of many of the conventional narratives of the civil rights movement. Here a vibrant nonviolent movement in the de-industrializing Midwest grows into a Black Power movement led by urban youth and a white Catholic priest who use confrontational direct action to lay bare the fissures of racial inequality in the 'liberal' North.
A well-researched, well-written, and important history. Based on a rich array of sources, this book enhances our understanding of civil rights activism in the postwar urban North and establishes a useful foundation for the comparison of similar developments elsewhere in the country.
This book fills a serious gap in the literature of the civil rights revolution, joining studies on other cities in laying the groundwork on race and civil rights in the postwar urban North. Jones tells a good story, capturing events that might otherwise be lost to history.
The Selma of the North is an insightful and invigorating addition to the growing literature on black freedom struggles outside of the South. Jones's important and informative account writes Milwaukee back into the narrative of the civil rights-Black Power era and in the process expands our understanding of postwar America.
The Selma of the North is a riveting new story of the civil rights movement in America, a tale on par with Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery in its power and importance. Jones's magisterial research and magnetic prose illuminate the untold story of the battle for the urban north in the 1960s, a battle that shows how race has always been the Achilles heel of white progressives. This story transcends easy dichotomies of black and white, North and South, radical and reformist. How did a group called 'the Commandos' define nonviolence? How did a white Catholic priest become a 'Black Power' leader? If this is not a saga for the age of Obama, I don't know what is.
A well-researched and fascinating narrative...Jones has produced an outstanding study of the civil rights movement in Milwaukee which should prove a model for investigations of other Northern cities.
Anyone living in Milwaukee in the '60s and old enough to be aware will recall a time of sharp tension. A riot erupted in the inner city during the summer of 1967, a year of unrest around the nation, and a white Roman Catholic priest organized black youth to march against the segregation that confined African Americans to Milwaukee's poorest, most run-down quarter. Whites responded with violence. And the police were not amused by challenges to the status quo. The story is recounted with lucid scholarship in The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee.
Selma of the North is a solid entry into the expanding bookshelf on civil rights activism in the North, offering what Jones rightly calls "another tile to the mosaic" of studies about the struggle for racial justice in the twentieth century.
- 360 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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