Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader

By Jonathan Bean | Go to book overview

Introduction
Civil Rights and Classical Liberalism

THIS IS THE FIRST COLLECTION of writings on race and immigration to document the role of the classical liberal tradition. For many generations, this tradition dominated the civil rights movement, and it continues to exert a profound influence on current events. Classical liberals fought slavery, lynching, segregation, imperialism, and racial distinctions in the law. As immigration advocates, they defended the “natural right” of migration to America. Race and Liberty recaptures this lively tradition through the writings of men and women missing from other civil rights anthologies. Academic booklists reflect the politically correct view that left-wing liberals or radicals completely dominated the struggle for racial freedom.1 Works offering a different point of view are guilty of “backlash,” “whitewashing race,” or “color-blind racism”—the trendy notion that those who favor nondiscrimination are “objectively racist.”2 Not surprisingly, classical liberals are the invisible men and women of the long civil rights movement.

Race and Liberty will interest readers tired of the Left versus Right debates on television or the Left on Left offerings in the classroom. Instructors may use this collection to stimulate discussion of a civil rights tradition deeply rooted in the American experience. While students may agree or disagree with the classical liberal perspective, they will not “shut down” in silence, looking for the “correct” answers they have encountered in other discussion readers. Students live in a highly charged campus climate that presumes racism is everywhere and must be overcome by “affirmative discrimination,” diversity studies, multiculturalism, harassment codes, and sensitivity training by “race experts.” Race and Liberty frees them to consider another way of looking at the world.

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