Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy

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Despite black gains in modern America, the end of racism is not yet in sight. Nikhil Pal Singh asks what happened to the worldly and radical visions of equality that animated black intellectual activists from W. E. B. Du Bois in the 1930s to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. In so doing, he constructs an alternative history of civil rights in the twentieth century, a long civil rights era, in which radical hopes and global dreams are recognized as central to the history of ...

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Overview

Despite black gains in modern America, the end of racism is not yet in sight. Nikhil Pal Singh asks what happened to the worldly and radical visions of equality that animated black intellectual activists from W. E. B. Du Bois in the 1930s to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. In so doing, he constructs an alternative history of civil rights in the twentieth century, a long civil rights era, in which radical hopes and global dreams are recognized as central to the history of black struggle.

It is through the words and thought of key black intellectuals, like Du Bois, Ralph Bunche, C. L. R. James, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, and others, as well as movement activists like Malcolm X and Black Panthers, that vital new ideas emerged and circulated. Their most important achievement was to create and sustain a vibrant, black public sphere broadly critical of U.S. social, political, and civic inequality.

Finding racism hidden within the universalizing tones of reform-minded liberalism at home and global democratic imperatives abroad, race radicals alienated many who saw them as dangerous and separatist. Few wanted to hear their message then, or even now, and yet, as Singh argues, their passionate skepticism about the limits of U.S. democracy remains as indispensable to a meaningful reconstruction of racial equality and universal political ideals today as it ever was.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Historically situated in the South during the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States is narrowly associated with the now iconic figure of Martin Luther King Jr. and organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Singh (history, Univ. of Washington) asserts that black challenges to inequality during the movement were the continuation of a pattern of black antiracist organizing that went beyond the South and issues of desegregation and voting rights. Thus he presents the antiracist theories and organizing of black radicals W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Bunche, Ralph Ellison, C.L.R. James, the Black Panthers, and others critical of U.S. public and foreign policies that tout freedom and democracy while at the same time promoting racial exclusion. Singh argues persuasively that the black struggle for social justice has been for universal rights that benefit the nation as a whole and can represent a model of democracy. His historiography and analysis are important and represent a new generation of historians examining the Civil Rights Movement and race in America from fresh perspectives. Suitable for U.S. history collections.-Sherri L. Barnes, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara Libs. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674013001
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/31/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Nikhil Pal Singh is Visiting Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History Director of the Program in American Studies at New York University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : civil rights, civic myths 1
1 Rethinking race and nation 15
2 Reconstructing democracy 58
3 Internationalizing freedom 101
4 Americanizing the Negro 134
5 Decolonizing America 174
Conclusion : racial justice beyond civil rights 212
Notes 227
Acknowledgments 277
Index 279
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