Born along the Color Line: The 1933 Amenia Conference and the Rise of a National Civil Rights Movement

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9780195174557: Born along the Color Line: The 1933 Amenia Conference and the Rise of a National Civil Rights Movement

In August, 1933, dozens of people gathered amid seven large, canvas tents in a field near Amenia, in upstate New York. Joel Spingarn, president of the board of the NAACP, had called a conference to revitalize the flagging civil rights organization. In Amenia, such old lions as the 65 year-old W.E.B. DuBois would mingle with "the coming leaders of Negro thought." It was a fascinating encounter that would transform the civil rights movement.

With elegant writing and piercing insight, historian Eben Miller narrates how this little-known conference brought together a remarkable young group of African American activists, capturing through the lives of five extraordinary participants--youth activist Juanita Jackson, diplomat Ralph Bunche, economist Abram Harris, lawyer Louis Redding, and Harlem organizer Moran Weston--how this generation shaped the ongoing movement for civil rights during the Depression, World War II, and beyond. Miller describes how Jackson, Bunche, Harris, and the others felt that, amidst the global crisis of the 1930s, it was urgent to move beyond the NAACP's legal and political focus to build an economic movement that reached across the racial divide to challenge the capitalist system that had collapsed so devastatingly. They advocated alliances with labor groups, agitated for equal education, and campaigned for anti-lynching legislation and open access to the ballot and employment--spreading their influential ideas through their writings and by mass organizing in African American communities across the country, North and South. In their arguments and individual awakenings, they formed a key bridge between the turn-of-the-century Talented Tenth and the postwar civil rights generation, broadening and advancing the fight for racial equality through the darkest economic times the country has ever faced.

In Born along the Color Line, Miller vividly captures the emergence of a forgotten generation of African American leaders, a generation that made Brown v. Board of Education and all that followed from it possible. It is an illuminating portrait of the "long civil rights movement," not the movement that began in the 1950s, but the one that took on new life at Amenia in 1933

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About the Author:


Eben Miller teaches at Southern Maine Community College and lives in Lewiston, Maine.

Review:


"[A] meticulous and altogether beautifully composed study of people and ideas . I must begin by noting how gifted Miller is at mining the gold dust of details that take us inside a temperament and personality-not just within 'a mind.' Miller has written a book that deserves to be both carefully read and deeply admired." --American Historical Review


"Miller does an excellent job of portraying his protagonists and reconstructing their ideas and debates." --Journal of American History


"Eben Miller centers his terrific new book on a glorious estate in the Hudson River Valley at the height of summer 1933. In that unlikely spot, he uncovers a crossroad in the long, hard struggle for civil rights, a place where the movement pivoted. Born along the Color Line is a marvelous piece of historical recreation, original, engaging, and enlightening."-Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age


"In this creative and engaging account of a pivotal moment in the history of the NAACP, Eben Miller captures the organizational vibrancy and ideological diversity of the nation's leading civil rights organization. Through the biographies of the young black men and women who vigorously debated strategies for combating segregation and racial inequality at the NAACP's Amenia Conference, Born along the Color Line effectively recovers the diverse and often competing political currents informing civil rights activism prior to the rise of the modern civil rights movement."-Eric Arnesen, The George Washington University


"Eben Miller's well-researched and interpretively sound Born along the Color Line is a major contribution to 20th-century civil rights literature. This may not be the last word on the significance of the second Amenia Conference, but any further scholarship will begin with his."-David Levering Lewis, author of Du Bois: A Biography


"With his warm biographical portraits and finely honed interpretations Eben Miller has cast a new and valuable light on the generation of black activists and intellectuals who paved the way for the great legal and social victories of the 1950s and 60s. Born along the Color Line should be required reading for anyone who hopes to claim expertise in the history of the modern civil rights movement." -Jonathan Holloway, Yale University


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