Separate and Unequal: African Americans and the US Federal Government

Overview

"In this landmark book, Desmond King reveals and corrects a glaring gap at the epicenter of studies of racial inequality and political development in the United States: their blindness to the pivotal role of the state in making race. With historical precision and analytic rigor, he demonstrates how, for seven decades following the legal affirmation of the doctrine 'separate and equal' in 1896, the federal government both bolstered and expanded racial separation, in effect nationalizing the pattern of black subordination elaborated by Southern

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Overview

"In this landmark book, Desmond King reveals and corrects a glaring gap at the epicenter of studies of racial inequality and political development in the United States: their blindness to the pivotal role of the state in making race. With historical precision and analytic rigor, he demonstrates how, for seven decades following the legal affirmation of the doctrine 'separate and equal' in 1896, the federal government both bolstered and expanded racial separation, in effect nationalizing the pattern of black subordination elaborated by Southern segregationists in the aftermath of abolition. The abiding social and symbolic marginality of the African American community in US society thus emerges, not as an inert legacy of slavery or a result of its alleged cultural failings, but as a creature of state policies studiously enforced by the federal bureaucracy until the 1960s. Enriched by a postscript that reviews and revises its core argument, this new edition of Separate and Unequal is one that every serious student of racial domination and comparative politics will want to read and engage."—Loïc Wacquant, University of California, Berkeley, and Centre de sociologie européenne, Paris

Despite major strides in combating racial segregation and oppression since the Civil Rights movement, racial inequality remains a persistent and vexing problem in America today. At the forefront of recent scholarship highlighting the central influence of the US federal government on race relations well before the 1960s, Separate and Unequal uncovers, through archival research, how the federal government used its power to impose a segregated pattern of race relations among its employees and, through its programs, upon the whole of American society. In a new postscript to this revised edition, Desmond King places his original, groundbreaking analysis in the context of recent studies and connects the legacy of exclusionary programs and policies to current racial disparities in welfare reform, prisons, and education.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As in the first edition, the revised edition of Separate and Unequal illustrates with great detail and clarity the multiple ways in which the federal government proved to be a significant participant in the continued oppression of Black Americans and an active promoter of white supremacy throughout the 20th century. This book significantly advances our understanding of the state, necessitating that we pay attention to the different entities, goals, and consequences of state power. For students interested in race and the state this is a book you must read."—Cathy J. Cohen, University of Chicago

"Desmond King's Separate and Unequal makes a significant contribution to our knowledge of the politics of disparate treatment.... King demonstrates how the federal government colluded in the maintenance of segregated race relations.... One comes away with a knowledge of the extent to which segregation and racism were institutionalized in the federal system."—American Political Science Review

"This is a pioneering book on race and the federal bureaucracy... King's book ploughs new ground, [and] is a bold work. The factual data that the book unearths tell a startling, compelling, and debilitating story."—Journal of American History

"Desmond King has written a stinging account of the relationship between the federal government and the preservation of white supremacy."—American Historical Review

"This book is original, thorough, and significant. Its strengths are numerous. It tackles a subject critically important in the history of American race relations. It sheds important light on current debates about the relationship of the federal government to black America."—Eric Foner, Columbia University

"Drawing on a wealth of archival sources, King shows how the Federal government systematically segregated African Americans in its own operations. The book provides important and original perspectives on the prevalence of racial discrimination within the Federal government from the Progressive Era until the 1960's. In so doing, it causes us to rethink conventional views of the Federal government as a neutral arbiter in race relations."—Margaret Weir, Brookings Institution

"Desmond King is one of a handful of scholars who takes seriously the manner in which the racial divide in the United States has been constitutive of its twentieth-century state and public policy. Separate and Unequal provides an important, overdue, synoptic treatment of blacks in the American regime."—Ira Katznelson, Columbia University

"Focusing on the inequality of federal employment policies from 1933 to the 1950s, this investigation makes an important contribution to the literature on history and African American studies."—Choice

"Lucidly deploying a voluminous range of original archive sources, King vividly demonstrates how segregated practices and assumptions in the wider American society were reflected and replicated in, and thereby reinforced by, the government itself...The intrinsic power of the author's argument is strengthened by the new, rich and diverse primary data he marshals to provide a compelling and stimulating rejoinder to scholars who view the American state as either weak or ineffective in shaping its citizens' welfare. A landmark study."—Robert Singh, Trinity College, University of Dublin

"[A] well written and extremely well-documented volume...Especially informative."—Urban Affairs Review

"King has mined governmental records to yield illuminating data and rich first hand testimony."—Journal of Sourthern History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195336221
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/21/2007
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Desmond King is the Andrew Mellon Professor of American Government and Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Abbreviations
Part I: The Historical Context
1. The Politics of Segregation in Post-Reconstruction America
Part II: Segregation in the US Federal Government
2. Joining the Government: 'Because I Dared to be Black'
3. Working in a Federal Agency: Social Ostracism and Discrimination
Part III: The Federal Government and Segregation Beyond Washington
4. 'A Great Shadow over our "Civil Rights"': Fighting for the Government
5. Serving Time with the Government: Federal Penitentiaries
6. The Federal Government in a Segregated Society: Public Employment Exchanges and Housing Programmes
Part IV: The Legacies of Segregated Race Relations
7. Conclusion
Postscript: The Segregated State in America's Racial Orders
Appendices
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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