The House I Live in: Race in the American Century
This scrupulously fair and insightful narrative―the most ambitious and wide-ranging history of its kind―sheds new light on the ideologies, from white supremacy to black nationalism, that have shaped race relations since the Civil War. Norrell argues that it is these ideologies, more than politics or economics, that have sculpted the landscape of race in America. Beginning with Reconstruction, he shows how the democratic values of liberty and equality were infused with new meaning by Abraham Lincoln, only to become meaningless for generations of African Americans as the white supremacy movement took shape. The heart of the book paints a vivid portrait of the long, often dangerous struggle of the Civil Rights movement to overcome decades of accepted inequality. Norrell offers fresh appraisals of key Civil Rights figures and dissects the ideas of racists. He offers striking new insights into black-white history, observing for instance that the Civil Rights movement really began as early as the 1930s, and that contrary to much recent writing, the Cold War was a setback rather than a boost to the quest for racial justice. He also breaks new ground on the role of popular culture and mass media in first promoting, but later helping defeat, notions of white supremacy. Though the struggle for equality is far from over, Norrell writes that today we are closer than ever to fulfilling the promise of our democratic values. The House I Live In gives readers the first full understanding of how far we have come.
"Scholarly yet vital. A wide but trenchant―and certainly fresh―accounting of whites' interaction with blacks, and vice versa.... The greatest strength of this very solid book is the author's new appraisals of such important figures in race relations as Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King."―Booklist"An engaging, well-researched overview of American race relations since the Civil War, larded with terrific stories and analytical gems."―Warren Goldstein, Chicago Tribune"Norrell draws from dramatic events and the persuasive stories of individuals to bring a broadened perspective to our understanding of American race relations."―Library Journal"This gripping narrative encompasses more than a century of volatile race relations in America, but it's more than a story of racism and the struggle for equality. It's really the story of 20th-century America, for nearly every aspect of our history in the 'American Century' affected or was affected by race relations."―Pat MacEnulty, Miami Sun-Sentinel"Robert J. Norrell is one of the smartest interpreters of our national dilemma of race, and The House I Live In offers rich and provocative new paradigms for understanding the struggle for equality that is the signal gift and curse of America's destiny. The book asks big questions about what has changed since Lincoln rededicated the country to its founding proclamation of freedom―and what has not. The answers are original and sometimes controversial, certain to bring needed rigor to our continuing conversation about race." ―Diane McWhorter, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution"An outstanding overview of the complex role that race has played in 20th century American life.Norrell's sympathies for the civil rights movement are evident throughoutthis thoughtful and well-written book, but he is willing to challenge the assumptions of liberals as well as conservatives in a way that should provoke a healthy debate about the challenges that still lie ahead." ―Dan T. Carter, author of From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, 1963-1994"To read this book is to be reminded how prescient W. E. B. Du Bois was when he predicted that 'the color line' would be the problem of the twentieth century. With enviable clarity and literary polish, The House I Live In makes sense of the dauntingly complex history of black-white relations in twentieth-century America.Norrell weaves ideology, popular culture, and economic competition into his sobering account, at once affirming the great strides that the nation made during the past century, but also posing troubling questions about our capacity and resolve to fully address the problem of race." ―W. Fitzhugh Brundage, author of Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Southern Identity"An analytical overview of race relations in the last century, chronicling a long history of protest by African Americans as well as exploring the role race played in everything from politics to popular culture. Not everyone will agree with all of its provocative conclusions, but they will be better prepared for the debate after wrestling with them." ―Gaines M. Foster, author of Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause and the Emergence of the New South, 1865-1913"Here is a book that delivers everything it promises and more. Norrell's evenhanded and thoughtful appraisal of America's response to 'the problem of the color line' gives us a realistic but hopeful perspective for contemplating a twenty-first century where our democratic principles may be challenged less by the absolutes of black and white than the subtleties of ethnic and cultural diversity on a grand scale." ―James C. Cobb, author of Redefining Southern Culture: Mind and Identity in the Modern South"A thorough...overview of the complexities of America's racial, social and political topography."―Publishers Weekly
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