This Is Where I Came In: Black America in the 1960s


The fascinating and turbulent black America of the 1960s emerges in these essays, through the lenses of dissent and its contradictions. Gerald L. Early revisits this volatile time in American history, when class, culture, and race ignited conflagrations of bitterness and hatred across the nation.
The lives of three active and influential people are given special attention: Cecil B. Moore, advocate and agitator in the “racial tinderbox” ...
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The fascinating and turbulent black America of the 1960s emerges in these essays, through the lenses of dissent and its contradictions. Gerald L. Early revisits this volatile time in American history, when class, culture, and race ignited conflagrations of bitterness and hatred across the nation.
The lives of three active and influential people are given special attention: Cecil B. Moore, advocate and agitator in the “racial tinderbox” of black Philadelphia; Muhammad Ali, promoter of a “colored” consciousness; and Sammy Davis Jr., survivor of black vaudeville and liberator of black performers.
The fiercely independent Moore, who rebuffed the black political establishment because it failed to address the concerns and needs of the majority of the black populace, used the authority of the NAACP to forge a militant, populist organization at the local level. Ali, one of the most widely recognized athletes of all time, combined protest and action to become a hero for black and “colored” people throughout the world, and became a type of ambassador to the Third World. Davis mirrored America’s emancipation, confusion, and self-destructiveness, and, most important, its self-consciousness, which transcended even his remarkable accomplishments as an entertainer. As Early demonstrates, the careers and lives of Moore, Ali, and Davis illustrate and embody the ambiguity and struggle of American identity in the 1960s.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Despite its title, Early (The Culture of Bruising) quickly establishes that the three essays here are not autobiographical, but rather academic profiles-originally delivered as part of a university lecture series-of Muhammad Ali, Sammy Davis Jr. and Cecil B. Moore. Early sees the three men as symbols of America's self-conscious redefinition in the 1960s, and through them he offers a well-researched characterization of a decade for which Early professes no nostalgia. In the first essay, Early eschews narrative detail in favor of analysis, breaking down the charismatic appeal of Ali "in an era when black nationalism and color consciousness was intricately connected to masculinity." The profile of Sammy Davis Jr. is more gracefully written, threaded with stories and reviews that describe Davis's contradictions and the contradictory ways people responded to him, mirroring America's ambiguous identity in the 1960s and its paradoxical responses to race. Early's gifts as a scholar and writer are best displayed in the final essay on Moore, head of the Philadelphia NAACP at a time when the city was "a racial tinderbox." The match was struck when police intervened in a marital dispute and, fueled by rumors that the wife was pregnant and had been killed, the population burst into riot. Moore's ineffectiveness in stopping the violence, Early suggests, "intensified his desire for independence"; for the rest of his career, Moore distanced himself from political establishments and, by answering to no one, earned the trust of many in the black community. Early, who grew up in Philadelphia and remembers both Moore and the impact of his pressure politics, at last indulges in memoir, recalling the walls of the segregated Girard College and the racial slurs in the barber shop where he delivered papers. The essay is more poignant for it, and although the book ultimately succeeds in creating a portrait of 1960s America, readers may wish that Early had not been so faithful in his commitment to avoid autobiography. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In three essays that revise his "Abraham Lincoln Lectures" (2000) at the University of Nebraska, Early (director, African & Afro-American studies, Washington Univ., St. Louis) reexamines the 1960s through the private perspectives and public perceptions of three black figures who were their own man in different ways. Rendering boxer Muhammad Ali as Third World hero, entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. as establishment rebel, and Philadelphia grass-roots organizer and lawyer Cecil Bassett Moore as the catalyst for the political rise of black Philadelphia, Early illuminates the 1960s as an age of self-conscious redefinition that was both narcissistic and populist. His incisive strokes open to view varieties of dissent and their contradictions in contexts of individual and racial identity, pride, and power. Recommended for collections on contemporary America and on black biography, history, and politics as a spirited contrast and companion to recent works such as Leonard N. Moore's Carl B. Stokes and the Rise of Black Political Power, Heather Ann Thompson's Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City, and John H. McWhorter's Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"Early aptly demonstrates how [Muhammad] Ali, [Sammy] Davis, and [NAACP President Cecil] Moore represent efforts of self and racial redefinition during a tumultuous period."—Booklist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803267497
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Series: Abraham Lincoln Lecture Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerald L. Early is Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters at Washington University. He also serves as Director of African and Afro-American Studies at Washington University and is the author of numerous books, including The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Literature, Prizefighting, and Modern American Culture, and the editor of Miles Davis and American Culture.
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Table of Contents

Muhammad Ali as Third World Hero 1
Sammy Davis, Jr., Establishment Rebel 36
Cecil B. Moore and the Rise of Black Philadelphia, 1964-1968 67
Notes 131
Index 139
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