Up South

Up South

Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia

Book - 2006
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Book News
Countryman (history and American culture, U. of Michigan) traces the development of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in the nation's fourth largest city. His narrative contradicts narratives that blame Black Power for the derailing of the Civil Rights movement and the beginnings of the white backlash that defines much of American politics today. He first describes how the initial successes of the liberal civil rights approach in pursuing equal opportunity laws in the 1940s and 1950s led to disappointment when the laws failed to transform the structure of race relations in Philadelphia. This gave rise to a black protest movement that rejected liberal approaches and, relying on black nationalist traditions of collective action and self- reliance and strategies borrowed from the southern protest movement, forged a Black Power approach that made notable, if not unqualified, successes in the pursuit of community control and democratic politics. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

University of Pennsylvania Press

Up South traces the efforts of two generations of black Philadelphians to turn the City of Brotherly Love into a place of promise and opportunity for all. Although Philadelphia rarely appears in histories of the modern civil rights struggle, the city was home to a vibrant and groundbreaking movement for racial justice in the years between World War II and the 1970s. By broadening the chronological and geographic parameters of the civil rights movement, Up South explores the origins of civil rights liberalism, the failure of the liberal program of antidiscrimination legislation and interracial coalition-building to deliver on its promise of racial equality, and the subsequent rise of the Black Power movement.

The Philadelphia movement occurred in three stages. During the 1940s and 1950s, liberal civil rights groups in the city successfully campaigned for Philadelphia's new City Charter to be the first in the nation to include a ban on racial discrimination in municipal employment, services, and contracts. Within a decade, however, black activists in the city were leading consumer boycotts and street protests against the city's liberal establishment for failing to overcome entrenched structures of racial inequality in labor markets, residential neighborhoods, and public schools. These protests set the stage both for some of the earliest experiments in affirmative action and for the emergence of the Black Power movement in Philadelphia.

Challenging the view that it was the inflammatory rhetoric of Black Power and the rising demands of black activists that derailed the civil rights movement, Up South documents the efforts of Black Power activists in Philadelphia to construct a vital and effective social movement that combined black nationalism's analysis of racism's constitutive role in American society with a program of grassroots community organizing and empowerment. On issues ranging from public education and urban renewal to police brutality and welfare, Philadelphia's Black Power movement remade the city's political landscape. And, in contrast to the top-down middle-class leadership of traditional civil rights groups, Black Power in Philadelphia fundamentally altered the composition of black leadership in the city to include a new cohort of neighborhood-based working-class and female black community activists.

Up South documents the efforts of Philadelphia's Black Power activists to construct a vital and effective social movement combining analyses of racism with a program of grassroots community organizing in the context of the failure of civil rights liberalism to deliver on its promise of racial equality.

Publisher: Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2006
ISBN: 9780812238945
Characteristics: 417 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm


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