Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Borders of Equality: The NAACP and the Baltimore Civil Rights Struggle, 1914-1970

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Borders of Equality: The NAACP and the Baltimore Civil Rights Struggle, 1914-1970

Article excerpt

Borders of Equality: The NAACP and the Baltimore Civil Rights Struggle, 1914-1970. By Lee Sartain. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013. Pp. [viii], 235. $55.00, ISBN 978-1-61703-751-1.)

Lee Sartain's new book Borders of Equality: The NAACP and the Baltimore Civil Rights Struggle, 1914-1970 analyzes African Americans' efforts for civil rights in Baltimore, Maryland, through the lens of the city's historically large NAACP branch. Baltimore is an intriguing site of inquiry because it served as an early battleground for many of the issues that later dominated the agendas of the post-World War II civil rights and Black Power movements. Baltimore activists were protest pioneers during the 1930s and 1940s, leading campaigns against issues such as housing discrimination, school segregation, prison conditions, and police brutality. The local NAACP even organized a "Citizenship School" more than a decade before similar institutions began spreading across the Deep South (p. 37). Those early efforts allowed Baltimore to serve as what NAACP lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston dubbed a '"legal laboratory'" for civil rights in the South (p. 7).

Despite that high level of early activism, the black freedom struggle in Baltimore has fallen victim to what Sartain identifies as a "general ignoring or stereotyping" (p. 9). He argues that the city has been "portrayed as being of the South but not sharing the worst excesses of the region," a treatment that has left Baltimore largely overlooked by historians of the African American past who are more interested in examining the dramatic racial conflicts of the Deep South and by those who seek to expand the historical understanding of the black freedom struggle beyond the South (p. 4). In other words, although the city lay below the Mason-Dixon Line, it was never southern (or, quite frankly, violently racist) enough to merit widespread attention. Sartain has a good point; Borders of Equality is his attempt to rectify that oversight.

This short book's five chapters are inconsistently organized chronologically and thematically but focus primarily on the "themes of gender, class, leadership, and youth activism" to adequately support Sartain's underlying argument that analyzing local struggles can bridge previously rigid chronological boundaries of the black freedom struggle (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.