Books: Non-Fiction

The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle Outside of the South

Book — Non-fiction. Edited by Brian Purnell and Jeanne Theoharis with Komozi Woodard. 352 pages. 2019. This important work shows how the Jim Crow North maintained inequality in the nation’s most liberal places, and chronicles how activists worked to undo those inequities born of Northern Jim Crow.
Time Periods: 19th Century, 20th Century, Turn of the Century: 1900 - 1909, World War I: 1910 - 1919, Prosperity, Depression, & World War II: 1920 - 1944
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Laws & Citizen Rights, Racism & Racial Identity

Jim Crow was not a regional sickness, it was a national cancer. Even at the high point of twentieth-century liberalism in the North, Jim Crow racism hid in plain sight. Perpetuated by colorblind arguments about “cultures of poverty,” policies focused more on Black criminality than Black equality. Procedures that diverted resources in education, housing, and jobs away from poor black people turned ghettos and prisons into social pandemics. Americans in the North made this history. They tried to unmake it, too.

Liberalism, rather than lighting the way to vanquish the darkness of the Jim Crow North gave racism new and complex places to hide. Edited by Brian Purnell and Jeanne Theoharis with Komozi Woodard, twelve scholars offer original essays in this anthology to unveil Jim Crow’s many strange careers in the North. They accomplish two goals: first, they show how the Jim Crow North worked as a system to maintain social, economic, and political inequality in the nation’s most liberal places; and second, they chronicle how activists worked to undo the legal, economic, and social inequities born of Northern Jim Crow policies, practices, and ideas.

The book ultimately dispels the myth that the South was the birthplace of American racism, and presents a compelling argument that American racism actually originated in the North. [Description from the publisher.]

ISBN: 9781479820337 | NY Press

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