We Ain't What We Ought to Be

We Ain't What We Ought to Be

The Black Freedom Struggle From Emancipation to Obama

Book - 2010
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Harvard University Press

In this exciting revisionist history, Stephen Tuck traces the black freedom struggle in all its diversity, from the first years of freedom during the Civil War to President Obama’s inauguration. As it moves from popular culture to high politics, from the Deep South to New England, the West Coast, and abroad, Tuck weaves gripping stories of ordinary black people—as well as celebrated figures—into the sweep of racial protest and social change. The drama unfolds from an armed march of longshoremen in post–Civil War Baltimore to Booker T. Washington’s founding of Tuskegee Institute; from the race riots following Jack Johnson’s “fight of the century” to Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of a Montgomery bus; and from the rise of hip hop to the journey of a black Louisiana grandmother to plead with the Tokyo directors of a multinational company to stop the dumping of toxic waste near her home.

We Ain’t What We Ought To Be rejects the traditional narrative that identifies the Southern non-violent civil rights movement as the focal point of the black freedom struggle. Instead, it explores the dynamic relationships between those seeking new freedoms and those looking to preserve racial hierarchies, and between grassroots activists and national leaders. As Tuck shows, strategies were ultimately contingent on the power of activists to protest amidst shifting economic and political circumstances in the U.S. and abroad. This book captures an extraordinary journey that speaks to all Americans—both past and future.

Baker & Taylor
Chronicles the struggles for African American freedoms and equality from the end of the Civil War to the current day, focusing on the achievements of grassroots activists and national leaders alike.

Book News
This is a narrative history of the long struggle for meaningful freedom for African Americans in the United States, from the Civil War to the present. Tuck (American history, Oxford U., UK) thematically grounds his discussion on the competing societal forces involved in the struggle and also seeks to overturn many of the misconceptions about the history of struggle that obtain from standard narratives. He notes, for example, that the struggle involved: local efforts, not just national leadership; violence as well as non-violence; secular and not just religious figures; global and not just national connections; demands for economic rights in addition to civil rights; and calls for separate black social institutions, as well as integration. Belknap Press is an imprint of Harvard U. Press. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010
ISBN: 9780674036260
Characteristics: viii, 494 p., [24] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm


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