Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement

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Sullivan spent ten years unearthing the little-known early decades of the NAACP’s activism, telling startling stories of personal bravery, legal brilliance, and political maneuvering by the likes of W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington, James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, Charles Houston, Ella Baker, Thurgood Marshall, and Roy Wilkins—as well as a host of unknown but pivotal figures whom Lift Every Voice brings to light for the first time. With fascinating new information on the pre–World War I decades of the NAACP, the book culminates in 1963, altering the chronology of the civil rights movement so that readers appreciate the foundation that the NAACP built in those early, formative years.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

A major contribution to our understanding of the political and cultural history of African Americans—indeed, of America itself.
—Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

Superb new history . . . elegantly written. A compelling, exhaustively researched account that sweeps across much of the last century.
—Jonathan Rosenberg, The Christian Science Monitor

[A] vital account of 100 years of foundational civil rights activism.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

An overdue tribute to the organization most responsible for dismantling American apartheid.
Kirkus Reviews

A compelling story . . . includes enough action-packed material for a handful of historical novels, monographs, and biographies, as well as a few movies and a TV series or two.
American Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois prophetically labeled the central challenge of the 20th century "the problem of the color-line." Six years later, in 1909, he joined black and white civic leaders and activists to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the country's oldest civil rights organization. Rejecting Booker T. Washington's Southern-based economic uplift strategy, the NAACP-celebrating its centenary this year-favored Du Bois's emphasis on complete equality for African-Americans as guaranteed by the Constitution, joining the fight at a time of deepening racism throughout the U.S. Spurred on by Woodrow Wilson's segregationist policies, the young NAACP rapidly grew to a formidable nationwide, grassroots-driven endeavor, waging campaigns in public squares, law courts, legislatures and-with Du Bois helming its organ, the Crisis-the court of public opinion. Historian Sullivan (Days of Hope) delivers a solidly researched examination of the organization's growth and influence, leaving us with a vital account of 100 years of foundational civil rights activism. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded 100 years ago by a combination of black and white reformers as a response to the violence directed at African Americans across the country. It gained national recognition by challenging the Wilson administration's attempts to segregate the federal government. By the end of World War I, the NAACP had become a black-dominated organization with 90,000 members. In a comprehensive history of the NAACP through the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Sullivan (history, Univ. of South Carolina; Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era) documents how the NAACP used its focus on law and the courts to rise from its humble origins and become the leading civil rights organization in the country. In chronicling the NAACP, Sullivan chronicles the beginnings of the civil rights struggle itself. VERDICT Well recommended for both general and academic readers.—Jason Martin, Univ. of Central Florida Lib., Orlando
Kirkus Reviews
On the NAACP's 100th birthday, a civil-rights expert offers a celebratory history of perhaps the most successful advocacy group ever. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People set out to agitate against a segregated society that had done little since emancipation to advance the civil rights of African-Americans. Although open to all at its inception, the primarily black organization raised its early profile by chronicling patterns of racial discrimination with its magazine, The Crisis, an anti-lynching campaign and a nationwide call to protest the racist movie, The Birth of a Nation. By the 1920s, the NAACP's 100,000 members were waging a multifront battle on behalf of racial justice. Sullivan (History/Univ. of South Carolina; Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr, Letters From the Civil Rights Years, 2003, etc.) begins with the organization's pre-World War I founding and follows its various transformations up to the historic Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The author pinpoints the NAACP's place in the civil-rights universe-too integrationist for the Garveyites, too timid for the communists, too radical for most everyone else. She also spotlights important cases and issues-racial terror, voting rights, criminal justice, discrimination in the military, employment, housing and education-that aroused the organization's members, and focuses on the NAACP's growth, achievements and synergistic composition. Locals organized in membership branches and were coordinated by field workers and attorneys, all of whom were informed by an agenda articulated at annual meetings of the national and statewide organizations. Although Sullivan touches on thegroup's internecine squabbling and various rivalries-W.E.B. Du Bois had an especially tumultuous relationship with the association-Sullivan's tone is largely uncritical This is understandable perhaps when the list of major players-including Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, Roy Wilkins, Charles Huston, William Hastie, Thurgood Marshall, Medgar Evers and Rosa Parks-reads like a civil-rights Hall of Fame. An overdue tribute to the organization most responsible for dismantling American apartheid.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595585448
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 522
  • Sales rank: 451,376
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Sullivan teaches history at the University of South Carolina and is a fellow in the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. Her books include Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era and Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr, Letters from the Civil Rights Years. She lives in Washington, D.C.
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