Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace

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Overview

In the 1950s, the exclusion of women and of black and Latino men from higher-paying jobs was so universal as to seem normal to most Americans. Today, diversity in the workforce is a point of pride. How did such a transformation come about?

In this bold and groundbreaking work, Nancy MacLeanshows how African-American and later Mexican-American civil rights activists and feminists concluded that freedom alone would not suffice: access to jobs at all levels is a requisite of full citizenship. Tracing the struggle to open the American workplace to all, MacLean chronicles the cultural and political advances that have irrevocably changed our nation over the past fifty years.

Freedom Is Not Enough reveals the fundamental role jobs play in the struggle for equality. We meet the grassroots activists—rank-and-file workers, community leaders, trade unionists, advocates, lawyers—and their allies in government who fight for fair treatment, as we also witness the conservative forces that assembled to resist their demands. Weaving a powerful and memorable narrative, MacLean demonstrates the life-altering impact of the Civil Rights Act and the movement for economic advancement that it fostered.

The struggle for jobs reached far beyond the workplace to transform American culture. MacLean enables us to understand why so many came to see good jobs for all as the measure of full citizenship in a vital democracy. Opening up the workplace, she shows, opened minds and hearts to the genuine inclusion of all Americans for the first time in our nation's history.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune

Superb and provocative...In a bold and sweeping new interpretation, [MacLean] argues that ordinary working people pushed forward the challenges to the centuries-old barriers that excluded women and minorities from America's best jobs...But what's new and extraordinary about MacLean's work is her ability to incorporate the histories of several groups at once. She tells the story of African-American, Mexican-American and female workers in tandem, even while recognizing that their struggles to break into once-off-limits jobs took different paths...MacLean uses the story of the struggle for workplace equality to consider nothing less than the major political realignments of the past quarter century...This is contemporary history at its best.
— Alex Lichtenstein

Journal of American History

Impressive. MacLean's decision to focus her history of civil rights on jobs and employment uncovers patterns of change and continuity that have remained largely unseen until now...Freedom Is Not Enough is a major work of scholarship that develops and defends a compelling perspective on one of the most significant transformations in recent U.S. history; it deserves a wide readership among those interested in seriously reckoning with how far the United States has come since the mid-twentieth century-and how far it may have yet to go.
— Anthony S. Chen

Women's Review of Books

Nancy MacLean's Freedom is Not Enough tells essential stories of movements for economic inclusion and their heroes. It is one of the most important new works of history I have read in years...MacLean has an eye for intriguing, underreported disagreements among groups. Her account of how the opposition of mainstream Jewish organizations to affirmative action fueled the liberal backlash of the 1970s—and energized the neoconservative movement—is eye-opening, as is her discussion of how feminism won some Jewish leaders back to the civil rights cause...Throughout the book...MacLean balances her analysis of broad political, cultural, and economic forces with an understanding of the capacity of individuals to make a difference, and even to change their minds...It's perhaps not surprising that the most inspiring workplace struggles today are those waged by low-wage workers, mostly women and people of color, who are demanding not merely access to jobs, but better pay and more respect...MacLean's history will help us to better understand—and build—these newer, multiracial battles as they emerge.
— Liza Featherstone

Across the Board

MacLean's authoritative retelling is more than a new account of the civil rights movements of blacks and Latinos and women—her focus on employment amounts to a refreshing rethinking of why today's offices look the way they do.
— Matthew Budman

The Nation

MacLean's book...is vital to understanding where the struggle for civil rights has gone since the 1960s, and the case she makes for equal-employment laws is powerful.
— David L. Chappell

Reviews in American History

The civil rights movement was about much more than abstract legal freedom, formal equality, or voting rights. It was, as Nancy MacLean shows in the sweeping national survey, also about access to good jobs...This book–based on primary research in well over a hundred manuscript collections and synthesizing a vast amount of secondary literature—is a vital contribution to the emerging field of late twentieth-century history. Readable and engaging, moving effortlessly between biographies of ordinary people and analyses of movement dynamics, it offers much to the student of politics, social movements, African American history, Chicano/a history, women's history, and conservatism.
— Ellen R. Baker

American Journal of Sociology

A masterful and comprehensive account of the way in which the modern conservative movement interacted with and transformed the trajectory of the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s onward...Her parallel accounts of left- and right-wing social movement development, which thrust their interaction into sharp focus, is a model of historical analysis from which sociologists can learn a great deal.
— Ruth Milkman

American Historical Review

MacLean succeeds in portraying much of the human drama involved in the struggle for better jobs...A well-written and accessible work that has clear potential to be adopted in courses on U.S. history since 1945...Detailed coverage [of] Latinos and Asian Americans increases the relevance of this book to the modern-day reader.
— Timothy J. Minchin

Journal of Southern History

Convincingly reinterprets the civil rights era of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s as a movement that positioned workplace equality as a seminal component in the fight to eradicate social and economic disparities across the United States...MacLean's detailed and brilliantly researched work does more than offer a general history of these movements for employment inclusion, important as such inclusiveness has become to definitions of equality. MacLean gives depth and breadth to this work by providing vignettes of key strategists and policy advocates...[An] important work.
— Robert S. Smith

Labor

[An] important new book...Effectively melding social, legal, and political history, the book makes clear just how central the assault on workplace discrimination was to the African American civil rights struggle and the movements it spawned...It is a broad transformation of hearts and minds, as well as hiring practices and political affinities, that MacLean seeks to explain, and she accomplishes much in less than 350 pages of text. For showing how African American activists set in motion a fundamental shift in American workplaces from unthinking acceptance of exclusion to celebration of inclusion and diversity, Freedom Is Not Enough deserves a wide audience.
— Kathleen Barry

AFL-CIO Cool Tools
Fifty years ago, most of America's society took for granted that the majority of its members--people of color and women--always would be employed in jobs that paid low wages with little chance to move ahead. In Freedom Is Not Enough, historian Nancy MacLean recounts the struggle for equal job rights in the civil rights movement, the feminist movement and Latinos' struggle for full citizenship. In the process, she unearths stories of the real heroes of the struggle: the women and men at the grassroots--many of them union activists--who gathered in workplace caucuses, argued over dinner tables, filed thousands of discrimination complaints with government agencies and more. She also pays special attention to the southern segregationists who fought unsuccessfully against the civil rights laws in the 1960s but laid the groundwork for the later conservative upsurge.
bookstowatchoutfor.com

This excellent history shows how real equality was only possible when African Americans, other minority groups, and other second-class citizens like women had equal access to work, when good jobs were no longer the sole provenance of white men...One part that had me glued to the text was that of the birth and development of the contemporary American conservatism movement in 1955...Reading the arguments and strategies of William F. Buckley, Jr., and other leaders of this movement was absolutely shocking to me...So was realizing that this conservative movement, born to defeat social justice, has the same intention and increasing power to do that today. This book really helped me see more deeply into very important issues, and I strongly recommend it.
— Carol Seajay

The Historian

One of the most significant contributions of MacLean's work is her examination of the backlash engendered by economic inclusion and its continued impact on current attitudes and practices...MacLean builds a well-documented argument that details how conservatives...turned a conversation based on past injustices to one based on "color-blindness."
— Stephane Elise Booth

Working-Class Notes
Freedom Is Not Enough examines not just the dramatic events and legal breakthroughs of the 1950s and '60s, but also the complex grassroots struggles to implement and enforce the new laws, and the workers who carried new formal rights into hostile workplaces in order to make them real...Her powerful narrative suggests how a more diverse working class might draw on past traditions of struggle to get back on the offensive at work.
Feminist Review

Maclean's book is a remarkable achievement: narrating in a single compelling, lucid, and reasonably comprehensive manner the American Civil Rights movement (particularly as it applied to labor struggle), women’s fight against “Jane Crow laws,” Mexican Americans’ push for full citizenship, and the complex relationship between Jewish Americans and African Americans in the latter half of the twentieth century. She traces the subtle and dramatic shifts in American conceptions of race, gender, and work.
— Rick Taylor

William H. Chafe
With a sweep rare in history books, Nancy MacLean shows how affirmative action and the civil rights movement transformed the experience of every group in American society during the last half century. A bold and dramatic contribution.
Alice Kessler-Harris
A brilliant synthesis studded with dramatic tales, Freedom is Not Enough effectively situates the demand for equal access to jobs as the still unresolved issue of the 21st century. MacLean writes with passion and commitment.
Lani Guinier
Nancy MacLean has written a powerful, important and luminous account of the uncanny synergy between three social movements: the magisterial civil rights struggle for jobs and freedom, the feminist quest for equity in the late 20th century, and the conservative political jujitsu that adopted the rhetoric of inclusion in order to pull the rug out from under the very idea of governmental reforms.
Robin D. G. Kelley
By placing Black and Latino struggles for jobs and justice at the center of her story, Nancy MacLean has boldly re-written the history of the Civil Rights movement as well as 20th century American political and economic history. While lunch counters were powerful symbolic sites of contestation, the transformation of the workplace holds the secret to the transformation of America. More than a hamburger, indeed.
Linda K. Kerber
There is a power in the tale [MacLean] tells--of a world remade and then of reform tragically deflected--that makes this a can't-put-down book. It will spark vigorous argument and provocative discourse. It may even spur some improvements in our public life.
Chicago Tribune - Alex Lichtenstein
Superb and provocative...In a bold and sweeping new interpretation, [MacLean] argues that ordinary working people pushed forward the challenges to the centuries-old barriers that excluded women and minorities from America's best jobs...But what's new and extraordinary about MacLean's work is her ability to incorporate the histories of several groups at once. She tells the story of African-American, Mexican-American and female workers in tandem, even while recognizing that their struggles to break into once-off-limits jobs took different paths...MacLean uses the story of the struggle for workplace equality to consider nothing less than the major political realignments of the past quarter century...This is contemporary history at its best.
Journal of American History - Anthony S. Chen
Impressive. MacLean's decision to focus her history of civil rights on jobs and employment uncovers patterns of change and continuity that have remained largely unseen until now...Freedom Is Not Enough is a major work of scholarship that develops and defends a compelling perspective on one of the most significant transformations in recent U.S. history; it deserves a wide readership among those interested in seriously reckoning with how far the United States has come since the mid-twentieth century-and how far it may have yet to go.
Women's Review of Books - Liza Featherstone
Nancy MacLean's Freedom is Not Enough tells essential stories of movements for economic inclusion and their heroes. It is one of the most important new works of history I have read in years...MacLean has an eye for intriguing, underreported disagreements among groups. Her account of how the opposition of mainstream Jewish organizations to affirmative action fueled the liberal backlash of the 1970s--and energized the neoconservative movement--is eye-opening, as is her discussion of how feminism won some Jewish leaders back to the civil rights cause...Throughout the book...MacLean balances her analysis of broad political, cultural, and economic forces with an understanding of the capacity of individuals to make a difference, and even to change their minds...It's perhaps not surprising that the most inspiring workplace struggles today are those waged by low-wage workers, mostly women and people of color, who are demanding not merely access to jobs, but better pay and more respect...MacLean's history will help us to better understand--and build--these newer, multiracial battles as they emerge.
Across the Board - Matthew Budman
MacLean's authoritative retelling is more than a new account of the civil rights movements of blacks and Latinos and women--her focus on employment amounts to a refreshing rethinking of why today's offices look the way they do.
The Nation - David L. Chappell
MacLean's book...is vital to understanding where the struggle for civil rights has gone since the 1960s, and the case she makes for equal-employment laws is powerful.
Reviews in American History - Ellen R. Baker
The civil rights movement was about much more than abstract legal freedom, formal equality, or voting rights. It was, as Nancy MacLean shows in the sweeping national survey, also about access to good jobs...This book–based on primary research in well over a hundred manuscript collections and synthesizing a vast amount of secondary literature--is a vital contribution to the emerging field of late twentieth-century history. Readable and engaging, moving effortlessly between biographies of ordinary people and analyses of movement dynamics, it offers much to the student of politics, social movements, African American history, Chicano/a history, women's history, and conservatism.
American Journal of Sociology - Ruth Milkman
A masterful and comprehensive account of the way in which the modern conservative movement interacted with and transformed the trajectory of the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s onward...Her parallel accounts of left- and right-wing social movement development, which thrust their interaction into sharp focus, is a model of historical analysis from which sociologists can learn a great deal.
American Historical Review - Timothy J. Minchin
MacLean succeeds in portraying much of the human drama involved in the struggle for better jobs...A well-written and accessible work that has clear potential to be adopted in courses on U.S. history since 1945...Detailed coverage [of] Latinos and Asian Americans increases the relevance of this book to the modern-day reader.
Journal of Southern History - Robert S. Smith
Convincingly reinterprets the civil rights era of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s as a movement that positioned workplace equality as a seminal component in the fight to eradicate social and economic disparities across the United States...MacLean's detailed and brilliantly researched work does more than offer a general history of these movements for employment inclusion, important as such inclusiveness has become to definitions of equality. MacLean gives depth and breadth to this work by providing vignettes of key strategists and policy advocates...[An] important work.
Labor - Kathleen Barry
[An] important new book...Effectively melding social, legal, and political history, the book makes clear just how central the assault on workplace discrimination was to the African American civil rights struggle and the movements it spawned...It is a broad transformation of hearts and minds, as well as hiring practices and political affinities, that MacLean seeks to explain, and she accomplishes much in less than 350 pages of text. For showing how African American activists set in motion a fundamental shift in American workplaces from unthinking acceptance of exclusion to celebration of inclusion and diversity, Freedom Is Not Enough deserves a wide audience.
bookstowatchoutfor.com - Carol Seajay
This excellent history shows how real equality was only possible when African Americans, other minority groups, and other second-class citizens like women had equal access to work, when good jobs were no longer the sole provenance of white men...One part that had me glued to the text was that of the birth and development of the contemporary American conservatism movement in 1955...Reading the arguments and strategies of William F. Buckley, Jr., and other leaders of this movement was absolutely shocking to me...So was realizing that this conservative movement, born to defeat social justice, has the same intention and increasing power to do that today. This book really helped me see more deeply into very important issues, and I strongly recommend it.
The Historian - Stephane Elise Booth
One of the most significant contributions of MacLean's work is her examination of the backlash engendered by economic inclusion and its continued impact on current attitudes and practices...MacLean builds a well-documented argument that details how conservatives...turned a conversation based on past injustices to one based on "color-blindness."
Feminist Review - Rick Taylor
Maclean’s book is a remarkable achievement: narrating in a single compelling, lucid, and reasonably comprehensive manner the American Civil Rights movement (particularly as it applied to labor struggle), women’s fight against “Jane Crow laws,” Mexican Americans’ push for full citizenship, and the complex relationship between Jewish Americans and African Americans in the latter half of the twentieth century. She traces the subtle and dramatic shifts in American conceptions of race, gender, and work.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Nancy MacLean is Professor of History and African American Studies at Northwestern University.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Prologue: Jobs and Belonging

Part I: African Americans Shake the Old Order

1. The Rightness of Whiteness

2. The Fight Begins

3. Civil Rights at Work

Part II: Others Reposition Themselves

4. Women Challenge "Jane Crow"

5. Are Mexican Americans "Whites" or "People of Color"?

6. Jewish Americans Divide over Justice

7. Conservatives Shift from "Massive Resistance" to "Color-Blindness"

Part III: The Challenge of the New Order

8. The Lonesomeness of Pioneering

9. The Struggle for Inclusion since the Reagan Era

Epilogue

Abbreviations in Notes

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

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