Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era

Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era

Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era

Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era

Synopsis

In Stirrings in the Jug, Reed offers a sweeping and incisive analysis of racial politics during the post-civil rights era.

Excerpt

In the early years of the 20th century, two strong voices offered Black Americans general and markedly different visions of how they might make a home for themselves in contemporary America.

One voice came from the South, from Booker T. Washington, the founder of the Tuskegee Institute and the greatest proponent of self-help. Black Americans—black Southerners in particular—should forgo seeking political and social equality, Washington argued. Political strength and social respect would follow naturally when blacks had proven themselves in agriculture, in the professions and as tradesmen.

W. E. B. DuBois argued that economic sufficiency was impossible to obtain without political rights. Without access to the ballot and the ability to influence public policy, black Americans could not possibly hope to win equal protection from the state, equal spending for their schools, or equal rights before the law.

Conventional wisdom has it that DuBois won that argument; the truth is that both his and Washington's visions have competed for primacy until today.

Now comes Adolph Reed to revisit these arguments, add nuance to them, and to remind us of their current application. Reed focuses on the modern era from the demise of legal segregation until today. He uses specific cases to draw a general outline of the ongoing debates as they are expressed, from Montgomery's bus boycott in 1955–56 through the elimination of state sanctioned segregation in 1964 and 1965 through the Black Power movement of the late '60s and early '70s to the Jesse Jackson campaigns of 1984 and '88.

Reed's arguments hold special meaning for us now. In less than a quarter of a century, America will be an older and more varied nation, less white, less female and less northern. We will not look like DuBois' and Washington's America. We will not be the America of today. The population of minorities will grow rapidly. Ratios of sex and age will undergo rapid shifts. This new America's racial views, attitudes, and actions will grow from the American past, both recent and distant.

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