Racial Beachhead: Diversity and Democracy in a Military Town

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RACIAL BEACHHEAD: DIVERSITY AND DEMOCRACY IN A MILITARY TOWN By Carol Lynn McKibben (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011, 352 pp., $80.00 cloth, $24.00 paper, $24.95 eBook)


CAROL LYNN McKIBBEN has set out to end the neglect of small towns, suburbs, and military towns in the historical literature. By so doing she wants us to understand the multiculturalism that is the future of urban America. As the "Public Historian for the City of Seaside, California, and the Director of the Seaside History Project," she is well positioned to do these things. Seaside is one of the cities around Monterey, California. It began as a neglected suburb of Monterey, which originated when one John Roberts bought 164 acres of land from the lacks Corporation in order to create a town. His dream languished throughout the Progressive Era and the 1920s, but then caught fire in the Great Depression, growing 300 percent, quadrupling in the 1940s, and doubling again in the 1950s. Demographically, it is a remarkable story of suburban growth that eventually sent its numbers past its parent city of Monterey, 37,969 to 31,410 by 1989. Ever since Brooklyn surpassed Manhattan in population in the nineteenth century and as recently as San Jose's eclipse of San Francisco, American suburbs have been transforming the urban landscape in unexpected ways.

Professor McKibben, who is also a lecturer in history and co-coordinator of the public history/public service major at Stanford University, makes the argument that what is now the city of Seaside was a leader in the civil rights movement, which largely derived from its location adjacent to Fort Ord, where integration was mandatory. The reviewer should have recused himself from this duty because he served his army training in the 1950s under an integrated system. …