Cover: Quest for Equality: The Failed Promise of Black-Brown Solidarity, from Harvard University PressCover: Quest for Equality in HARDCOVER

Quest for Equality

The Failed Promise of Black-Brown Solidarity

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Product Details


$32.00 • £25.95 • €29.00

ISBN 9780674050235

Publication Date: 05/01/2010


240 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

12 halftones, 1 line illustration

The Nathan I. Huggins Lectures


This concise, important work considers the possibilities but ultimate failure of the African American and Mexican American communities to unite in their struggle for civil rights.—D. O. Cullen, Choice

While Foley ably explores American efforts to end discriminatory practices, he is at his best reviewing the Mexican-American experience, and how ‘Mexican and African Americans pursued their struggles for equality…in largely parallel universes.’ When Mexico’s foreign minister banned Texas from receiving Mexican contract workers under the 1943 bracero program due to the state’s ‘extreme and intolerable racial discrimination against Mexicans,’ the legislature attempted several times to pass an antidiscrimination bill that could embrace Mexicans as Caucasians. Its failure rested in the fear that ‘to enact laws to end discrimination against Mexicans might also strike a blow against Jim Crow laws and customs segregating black Texans.’ …Foley’s accessible history shines fresh light upon the regional issues that make American conceptions of racial and national identity so tangled.Publishers Weekly

In this provocative and pathbreaking study, Neil Foley looks beyond the borders of the U.S. to understand the racial and political calculus of Latinos and African Americans in their early civil rights struggles. Quest for Equality is essential reading for all interested in the transnational, Cold War politics of race relations in the U.S.—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University

Foley provides a powerful new perspective on the wartime and postwar evolution of racial ideology, the evolving legal logic (and illogic) of racial segregation, and the conflicts over strategy within and among black and brown activist organizations about how to dismantle America’s racial regime.—Thomas Holt, University of Chicago

One of the most comprehensive and significant works available on race and the possibility of multiracial coalitions during the World War II and postwar eras in the United States.—George Sanchez, author of Becoming Mexican American

Neil Foley reveals a history of race relations that is sadly overlooked, or worse, denied. For those of us with deep border/barrio roots, who have held the secret knowledge of the racial tension that still claws at the peripheries of our communities, it is long overdue. We need and deserve more brave scholarship like this.—Luis Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway

This is a brave book. Neil Foley is as astute and clear-eyed an analyst of race as anyone in this country, and this sobering account of Mexican American and African American attempts at civil rights solidarity demonstrates how ultimately the two groups were not in the fight together.—Richard White, Stanford University

Awards & Accolades

  • Finalist, 2010 William P. Clements Prize, William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University
  • 2010 TIL Award for Most Significant Scholarly Book, Texas Institute of Letters
  • A Huffington Post Best Social and Political Awareness Book of the Year, 2010
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