Cover: Freedom Is Not Enough in PAPERBACK

Freedom Is Not Enough

The Opening of the American Workplace

Product Details


$32.50 • £28.95 • €29.95

ISBN 9780674027497

Publication Date: 03/15/2008


496 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

30 halftones

Russell Sage Foundation Books at Harvard University Press


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MacLean’s book…is vital to understanding where the struggle for civil rights has gone since the 1960s, and the case she makes for equal-employment laws is powerful.—David L. Chappell, The Nation

Superb and provocative… In a bold and sweeping new interpretation, [MacLean] argues that ordinary working people pushed forward the challenges to the centuries-old barriers that excluded women and minorities from America’s best jobs… But what’s new and extraordinary about MacLean’s work is her ability to incorporate the histories of several groups at once. She tells the story of African-American, Mexican-American and female workers in tandem, even while recognizing that their struggles to break into once-off-limits jobs took different paths… MacLean uses the story of the struggle for workplace equality to consider nothing less than the major political realignments of the past quarter century… This is contemporary history at its best.—Alex Lichtenstein, Chicago Tribune

Nancy MacLean’s Freedom Is Not Enough tells essential stories of movements for economic inclusion and their heroes. It is one of the most important new works of history I have read in years… MacLean has an eye for intriguing, underreported disagreements among groups. Her account of how the opposition of mainstream Jewish organizations to affirmative action fueled the liberal backlash of the 1970s—and energized the neoconservative movement—is eye-opening, as is her discussion of how feminism won some Jewish leaders back to the civil rights cause… Throughout the book…MacLean balances her analysis of broad political, cultural, and economic forces with an understanding of the capacity of individuals to make a difference, and even to change their minds… It’s perhaps not surprising that the most inspiring workplace struggles today are those waged by low-wage workers, mostly women and people of color, who are demanding not merely access to jobs, but better pay and more respect… MacLean’s history will help us to better understand—and build—these newer, multiracial battles as they emerge.—Liza Featherstone, Women’s Review of Books

MacLean succeeds in portraying much of the human drama involved in the struggle for better jobs… A well-written and accessible work that has clear potential to be adopted in courses on U.S. history since 1945… Detailed coverage [of] Latinos and Asian Americans increases the relevance of this book to the modern-day reader.—Timothy J. Minchin, American Historical Review

A masterful and comprehensive account of the way in which the modern conservative movement interacted with and transformed the trajectory of the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s onward… [MacLean’s] parallel accounts of left- and right-wing social movement development, which thrust their interaction into sharp focus, is a model of historical analysis from which sociologists can learn a great deal.—Ruth Milkman, American Journal of Sociology

Impressive. MacLean’s decision to focus her history of civil rights on jobs and employment uncovers patterns of change and continuity that have remained largely unseen until now… Freedom Is Not Enough is a major work of scholarship that develops and defends a compelling perspective on one of the most significant transformations in recent U.S. history; it deserves a wide readership among those interested in seriously reckoning with how far the United States has come since the mid-twentieth century—and how far it may have yet to go.—Anthony S. Chen, Journal of American History

Convincingly reinterprets the civil rights era of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s as a movement that positioned workplace equality as a seminal component in the fight to eradicate social and economic disparities across the United States… MacLean’s detailed and brilliantly researched work does more than offer a general history of these movements for employment inclusion, important as such inclusiveness has become to definitions of equality. MacLean gives depth and breadth to this work by providing vignettes of key strategists and policy advocates… [An] important work.—Robert S. Smith, Journal of Southern History

The civil rights movement was about much more than abstract legal freedom, formal equality, or voting rights. It was, as Nancy MacLean shows in the sweeping national survey, also about access to good jobs… This book—based on primary research in well over a hundred manuscript collections and synthesizing a vast amount of secondary literature—is a vital contribution to the emerging field of late twentieth-century history. Readable and engaging, moving effortlessly between biographies of ordinary people and analyses of movement dynamics, it offers much to the student of politics, social movements, African American history, Chicano/a history, women’s history, and conservatism.—Ellen R. Baker, Reviews in American History

MacLean’s authoritative retelling is more than a new account of the civil rights movements of blacks and Latinos and women—her focus on employment amounts to a refreshing rethinking of why today’s offices look the way they do.—Matthew Budman, Across the Board

MacLean’s book is a remarkable achievement: narrating in a single compelling, lucid, and reasonably comprehensive manner the American Civil Rights movement (particularly as it applied to labor struggle), women’s fight against ‘Jane Crow laws,’ Mexican Americans’ push for full citizenship, and the complex relationship between Jewish Americans and African Americans in the latter half of the twentieth century. She traces the subtle and dramatic shifts in American conceptions of race, gender, and work.—Rick Taylor, Feminist Review

One of the most significant contributions of MacLean’s work is her examination of the backlash engendered by economic inclusion and its continued impact on current attitudes and practices… MacLean builds a well-documented argument that details how conservatives…turned a conversation based on past injustices to one based on ‘color-blindness.’—Stephane Elise Booth, The Historian

[An] important new book… Effectively melding social, legal, and political history, the book makes clear just how central the assault on workplace discrimination was to the African American civil rights struggle and the movements it spawned… It is a broad transformation of hearts and minds, as well as hiring practices and political affinities, that MacLean seeks to explain, and she accomplishes much in less than 350 pages of text. For showing how African American activists set in motion a fundamental shift in American workplaces from unthinking acceptance of exclusion to celebration of inclusion and diversity, Freedom Is Not Enough deserves a wide audience.—Kathleen Barry, Labor

Freedom Is Not Enough examines not just the dramatic events and legal breakthroughs of the 1950s and ’60s, but also the complex grassroots struggles to implement and enforce the new laws, and the workers who carried new formal rights into hostile workplaces in order to make them real… [MacLean’s] powerful narrative suggests how a more diverse working class might draw on past traditions of struggle to get back on the offensive at work.Working-Class Notes

Fifty years ago, most of America’s society took for granted that the majority of its members—people of color and women—always would be employed in jobs that paid low wages with little chance to move ahead. In Freedom Is Not Enough, historian Nancy MacLean recounts the struggle for equal job rights in the civil rights movement, the feminist movement and Latinos’ struggle for full citizenship. In the process, she unearths stories of the real heroes of the struggle: the women and men at the grassroots—many of them union activists—who gathered in workplace caucuses, argued over dinner tables, filed thousands of discrimination complaints with government agencies and more. She also pays special attention to the southern segregationists who fought unsuccessfully against the civil rights laws in the 1960s but laid the groundwork for the later conservative upsurge.AFL–CIO Cool Tools

This excellent history shows how real equality was only possible when African Americans, other minority groups, and other second-class citizens like women had equal access to work, when good jobs were no longer the sole provenance of white men… One part that had me glued to the text was that of the birth and development of the contemporary American conservatism movement in 1955… Reading the arguments and strategies of William F. Buckley, Jr., and other leaders of this movement was absolutely shocking to me… So was realizing that this conservative movement, born to defeat social justice, has the same intention and increasing power to do that today. This book really helped me see more deeply into very important issues, and I strongly recommend it.—Carol Seajay,

With a sweep rare in history books, Nancy MacLean shows how affirmative action and the civil rights movement transformed the experience of every group in American society during the last half century. A bold and dramatic contribution.—William H. Chafe, Professor of History, Duke University, past president of the Organization of American Historians

Nancy MacLean has written a powerful, important and luminous account of the uncanny synergy between three social movements: the magisterial civil rights struggle for jobs and freedom, the feminist quest for equity in the late 20th century, and the conservative political jujitsu that adopted the rhetoric of inclusion in order to pull the rug out from under the very idea of governmental reforms.—Lani Guinier, coauthor of The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy

By placing Black and Latino struggles for jobs and justice at the center of her story, Nancy MacLean has boldly rewritten the history of the Civil Rights movement as well as 20th-century American political and economic history. While lunch counters were powerful symbolic sites of contestation, the transformation of the workplace holds the secret to the transformation of America. More than a hamburger, indeed.—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

There is a power in the tale [MacLean] tells—of a world remade and then of reform tragically deflected—that makes this a can’t-put-down book. It will spark vigorous argument and provocative discourse. It may even spur some improvements in our public life.—Linda K. Kerber, author of No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship

A brilliant synthesis studded with dramatic tales, Freedom Is Not Enough effectively situates the demand for equal access to jobs as the still unresolved issue of the 21st century. MacLean writes with passion and commitment.—Alice Kessler-Harris, author of In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America

Awards & Accolades

  • 2007 Philip Taft Labor History Book Award, ILR School at Cornell University and the Labor and Working-Class History Association
  • 2007 James Willard Hurst Prize, Law and Society Association
  • Co-Winner, 2006 Gustavus Myers Center Outstanding Book Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights

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