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In a devastating narrative that spans more than three centuries, the authors maintain that the drive for African-American equality has never had the support of the majority of Americans.
Despite the great racial upheavals of the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, and the federal government’s attempts to give blacks the right to vote, hold office, own land, and enjoy full citizenship, Jim Crow and "separate but equal" became the law of the land. And the spectacular gains of the civil rights era of the 1960s were followed by a discouraging backlash in the 1980s.
Racial progress was made only in brief historical bursts when a committed militant minority - abolitionists, radical republicans, civil rights activists - stirred the nation, pressuring it to change. Invariably, however, these advances have been followed by concerted efforts to restore white privilege.
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Barry Sanders teaches at Pitzer College, The Claremont Colleges, in California. He lives in Southern California.From Publishers Weekly:
Adams and Sanders trace what they see as the "continuous arc of animosity" between blacks and whites in the United States, contextualizing and shedding light on the racism that that they find persists in the "dark recesses of the nation's heart." Adams, an independent scholar, and Sanders, a professor of English and the History of Ideas at Pitzer College, find obvious malignity in the constitutional debate among the founders over whether slaves should be counted as people or property, while Thomas Jefferson, in their view, was a rapist as well as a racist, since Sally Hemmings was 14 at the time of their first relations. The American colonization movement that led to the founding of Liberia was, for Adams and Sanders, a "draconian" plot hatched by whites of the American Colonization Society to rid the country of blacks. (While the concept did originate with ACS, well-regarded studies show strong support, culminating in Garveyism, for emigration among blacks.) Throughout, White America is painted in varying shades of bigotry, with crusaders like William Lloyd Garrison cast as stark exceptions. Scant attention is paid to the remarkable struggles of the freedmen during Reconstruction to build political power for blacks in the south; the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers emerge as sources of resistance. Often, the hard truth at the core of the authors' critique is obscured by totalizations on the order of White America Thinks This, Black America Thinks That: "most whites perceive blacks as equals, but fully culpable for their economic and social ills," while at the same time, despite an increasing number of elite and moneyed black citizens, "most blacks understand that though they live in the same nation as whites, they do not live within the same system." The sociological data needed to buttress such assertions is decidedly missing here; Adams and Sanders cite, repeatedly, a small number of secondary sources. That slavery was wrong and that America's treatment of its black citizens has been appalling should be obvious to readers; Winthrop Jordan, Cornel West and others, including those the authors cite, have produced far more innovative works on the same subject.
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