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Defying Dixie : the radical roots of civil rights, 1919-1950

Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. A wonderful overview of an era that we don't talk about nearly as much as we should in terms of civil rights.

Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore

It brings into the spotlight a number of frequently overlooked heroes who were fighting for the soul of our nation and paved the way for the large scale movements of the fifties and sixties. Mar 10, Melissa rated it really liked it Shelves: history-stuff. I first became familiar with Gilmore's work in college--her Gender and Jim Crow just about changed my life. At the very least, it changed the way I think about history. Defying Dixie is a much longer, more complicated volume, but well worth the effort.

It's the story of how the far left mainly, Communists helped get the Civil Rights movement going, long before the "official" civil rights movement. You'll meet some amazing people--I am completely in love with Pauli Murray, and the book is worth I first became familiar with Gilmore's work in college--her Gender and Jim Crow just about changed my life. You'll meet some amazing people--I am completely in love with Pauli Murray, and the book is worth reading just for her story.

Much of the story is centered around North Carolina where Gilmore is originaly from , so from my 2 years studying history in the state, I ran into some familiar names.

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This book is not a history for everyone, though I think everyone should read it. These ideas that most of us take with no second thoughts were once completely unheard of--this is about those people, black and white, that started to work for these ideals. Recommended to everyone with an interest in the story of Civil Rights. Jan 02, Jenny Yates rated it really liked it. It took me ages to read this book, but it was worth it. It really debunks the myth that the civil rights struggle sprang full-blown from the forehead of Martin Luther King.

What we see instead is decades of patient work, some of it exactly the same as the civil disobedience in the 60s. Television helped a lot It took me ages to read this book, but it was worth it. Television helped a lot in upping the visibility of this struggle. But there was also a gradual softening through the years, thanks to many organizers, writers, journalists, lawyers, and educators. The connection was made.

And of course, the US needed African-Americans to fight, to work in factories, and to generally cooperate with the war effort, and this gave them some leverage. Some stuck with it till the end, but many were very disillusioned later, during the Stalin years, when the CP doffed a lot of its idealism. I occasionally fell asleep over this book, as it dwells a great deal on subtle political infighting.

The white Southern resistance to democracy involved ongoing machinations, which had to be constantly countered. The struggle was often a chess game. But the characters were the best part of it, and I met some fascinating people in these pages. The most interesting was Pauli Murray, and she figures large in this book. I have to go find her autobiography; I want to know everything there is to know about her.

From her beginnings, trying but failing to integrate the graduate program at the University of North Carolina, to her later years when she was ordained as a minister, she consistently fought against all restrictions around race and gender. What a shining light she was. Oct 26, Alex rated it really liked it Shelves: history , movement , patriarchy , racism. I picked up this book randomly when I saw it in the library, and it turned out to be a worthwhile read.

Gilmore, a white female professor from North Carolina, surveys the "radical roots of civil rights" through the efforts of the Communist Party in the South during the s through s. Gilmore tells the story by focusing on a few individual black radicals who have been forgotten by history, especially Lovett Fort-Whiteman and Pauli Murray. Whiteman, an extravagant early supporter of the Soviet I picked up this book randomly when I saw it in the library, and it turned out to be a worthwhile read. Murray had more luck, despite being a transgendered black woman in the South in the s.

With a bold attitude, she attempted to integrate various institutions, like the University of North Carolina Law program, and although she herself was not successful in these efforts, her example paved the way for future victories within the Black Freedom Movement. Philip Randolph, Max Yergan, and many other heroic characters who fought early and often for equality in the apartheid South.

More interesting to me though was what I learned about movement strategy, for example we explore how the first integrated unions in the South scared the bejesus out of the capitalists, or what it meant for the Communist Party to bring the country's attention to the case of the Scottsboro "Boys", or how the "Popular Front" strategy of allying with liberals succeeded, and failed.

The writing is interesting, but could be more purposeful. Defying Dixie focuses probably too much on the Communists, and not on other radicals, but still this book really clarified for me important stuff like the Depression, the South in the s, and the early Civil Rights Movement. Aug 14, Stacey rated it liked it Shelves: recently-read. Gilmore succeeds in her basic goal of expanding the story of the long Civil Rights movement, and her use of recently opened Soviet archives allows her to convey the linkages between international communism and the Civil rights movement of the interwar years.

Although at their essence these points are certainly not new, Gilmore's book is a welcome addition to the field, particularly as it gives a more international context to a story that is often presented as uniquely American. Throughout the bo Gilmore succeeds in her basic goal of expanding the story of the long Civil Rights movement, and her use of recently opened Soviet archives allows her to convey the linkages between international communism and the Civil rights movement of the interwar years. Throughout the book she brought ideas and events to life by presenting events through the life stories of various historical figures, most of whom are known to scholars of 20th century southern history but not to a more general audience.

I found her discussions of Pauli Murray to be the most compelling and central to her story. Others, however, fell a bit flat and this approach may have resulted in a book that is unduly long. Jul 16, Valorie rated it it was amazing.

FULL DOCUMENTARY - 1964: The Fight for a Right - MPB

Board of Education and the and Acts of President Johnson. As the title of the book indicates, and according to Gilmore, civil rights in fact had far earlier and far more radical origins in Communism, labor, Fascism and Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore redefines the standard chronology of the Civil Rights movement, popularly known for its post-WWII activity.

As the title of the book indicates, and according to Gilmore, civil rights in fact had far earlier and far more radical origins in Communism, labor, Fascism and anti-Fascism, and the Popular Front. She substantiates her thesis by tracing the activity of these movements, and by placing within them the African Americans and whites involved who both worked together and in opposition to one another to end or continue Jim Crow.

The issue of black civil rights is typically isolated to the United States and is considered to be historically a distinct American problem. By highlighting the involvement of radical movements that found their roots in Europe, Gilmore places African American civil rights on an international stage and redefines it within the context of what the world was experiencing and how this weaved into American culture. Gilmore shows that in America there was an active Communist Party that was focused on illuminating how racism created class differences, and had a purpose to overcome this class inequality by organizing Southern black laborers into a force white supremacists could not reckon with.

In emphasizing this simplistic distinction between the two, Gilmore slights the NAACP of some of its own influence and early contribution. Though less radical in comparison to a system like Communism, the NAACP nevertheless operated within a legal system that was hostile to them. When placed within the cultural context of America in the early 20th century, the NAACP was also radical in its own way because it defied the "place" of the African American, and the organization enjoyed many successes of its own. Dempsey decision that strengthened due process and African American's Constitutional rights.

Though these successes are certainly not as radical as labor marches through the streets of Gastonia, they are still significant to early civil rights radicalism.

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In keeping with the international scope of civil rights and the importance of the Communist Party, Gilmore brings to light that Africa Americans even went to Russia, had audience with Stalin himself, and many even let out sighs of relief to be in a country where they could, for the first time, enjoy life without fear.

African American civil rights and Communism are two movements not typically linked together. In placing them together, Gilmore effectively rewrites civil rights history to include world wide involvement. She does similarly with Fascism in the United States. Gilmore reveals that Fascist ideology was intertwined with white supremacy , yet Gilmore does not adequately make the connection between the ideologies of Fascism and white supremacy to explain how white supremacists co-opted Fascism into their beliefs.

Additionally, Gilmore splits up the influence of Fascism into two different sections, one in which she describes how some Americans embraced it early on, and then how later Fascism became linked with Communism and Nazi policy, and was thereafter largely rejected within America.


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  • Gilmore skips from one to the other without describing the intermediate years and how white supremacists that were once Fascist came to reject the ideology. Gilmore makes it clear why they did, but does not trace how or what happened to the former Black Shirt white supremacist American Fascists. Gilmore focuses her narrative on select people and groups, which allows her to make her points without filling pages with names and events that would have made the monograph dense and less fluid. Through the experiences of her select characters, Gilmore documents the progress of movements and is then allowed to move on with her point made by their examples.

    As she admits in her introduction, she leaves out a significant portion of people in the South who played major roles in the Civil Rights movement As reviewer Michael Dennis points out, the people ignored precisely the kind of political linkages that defined the popular front and did a good deal more grass roots organizing in the South than Fort-Whiteman. While leaving out these groups of people and their contributions does not weaken the argument Gilmore is trying to make, adding them would have strengthened her narrative by illustrating the scope of the work the Popular Front involved itself in.

    While she leaves out some groups and people, she includes other often overlooked players such as Truman's committee on civil rights, adding another layer to the retelling of conventional civil rights history Gilmore's limited focus allows her to incorporate an element of familiarity that makes her story easier and more enjoyable to read.

    The people involved in the movements she writes about become more than just names, but people with personalities. The emotional connection forged with these people give the book a sense of intimacy.