Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement

By in Civil Rights on February 20, 2013

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In this Bancroft Prize-winning history of the Civil Rights movement in Atlanta from the end of World War II to 1980, Tomiko Brown-Nagin shows that long before “black power” emerged and gave black dissent from the mainstream civil rights agenda a name, African Americans in Atlanta questioned the meaning of equality and the steps necessary to obtain a share of the American dream. This groundbreaking book uncovers the activism of visionaries–both well-known figures and unsung citizens–from across the ideological spectrum who sought something different from, or more complicated than, “integration.” Local activists often played leading roles in carrying out the agenda of the NAACP, but some also pursued goals that differed markedly from those of the venerable civil rights organization. Brown-Nagin documents debates over politics, housing, public accommodations, and schools. Exploring the complex interplay between the local and national, between lawyers and communities, between elites and grassroots, and between middle-class and working-class African Americans, Courage to Dissent transforms our understanding of the Civil Rights era.

3 thoughts on “Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement

  1. Mark Levine "leevyne"
    1
    4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Not Black or White, May 25, 2012
    By 
    Mark Levine “leevyne” (Jersey City, NJ USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

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    This elegantly nuanced Bancroft Award-winning history of the long civil rights movement in Atlanta manages to steer clear of the historical (and historiographical) tendency to see issues of race in America in terms of polar opposites: most obviously, black vs. white, but integration vis-a-vis separatism, pragmatism in relation to community action, “movement” lawyering as distinct from top-down problem-”solving”, and so on. Encompassing the big issues of education, voting rights, housing, public accomodations, and poverty, Brown-Nagin deals cogently with issues of class, community involvement, strategic subtleties, and what might be the very particular case of Atlanta (whose slogan as The City Too Busy to Hate is shown as, at best, dubious) in a way that raises every pertinent question and provides (as the circumstances didn’t either) no easy answers. That is an amazing accomplishment. Moreover, she addresses a literal multitude of complex matters in a straightforward and understandable manner. As would be expected, not everything is crystal-clear; this particular layman was at times confused by some very dense and layered legal history, but for the most part this exceptional study is cogently laid out and argued. It will be unsettling to those who considered, for example, the issues raised by Brown v. Board of Education, a decision now nearly 60 years old, to have been settled, or even to have been clear. DuBois himself questioned whether separate education was “inherently” unequal, and so— after reading this eloquent book— might any thoughtful reader. ’tain’t that simple.
    By not-quite-coincidence, I have also been reading two recent books with the same title, Seeing through Race (respectively by W.J.T. Mitchell and Martin A. Berger). Without either author trying to be “cute”, they offer alternative ways of seeing “through” race, by transcending it and by using it as a lens through which to view events. Brown-Nagin manages to do both and she is to be (and has been, rightly) commended for her efforts. Very impressive indeed!

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  2. David K. Morath "avid reader"
    2
    2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Nagin-Brown Provides the Nuances of the Post-Movement Period in Atlanta, October 24, 2012
    By 
    David K. Morath “avid reader” (Wrightsville, Pennsylvania) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

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    This review is from: Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement (Paperback)

    I worked with Austin Ford, Ethel Mathews, Margie Pitts Hames on the Minority to Majority transfer program as well as the early work on Armour v. Nix. The early ’70s was a time where African-Americans were starting to utilize and expand rights won during the ’60s. The more mainline civil rights organizations and leaders like Benjamin Mays were concerned with political control and jobs for black professionals in the Atlanta Public Schools. Mrs. Mathews and some of the other NWRO ladies were more concerned with opportunities for impoverished children. The idea of a metropolitan school district would have cut off avenues for the white flight that ultimately did occur. The interests of well-off and middle class African Americans diverged from the interests of the poor. Then, as now, the black community was not the monolithic entity that many people imagine. Poliitical alliances were very fluid and subject to change.

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  3. JANISE L. MILLER
    3
    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    MagentaWW, September 26, 2012
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    This review is from: Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement (Paperback)

    This book is excellent! I enjoyed reading about Atlanta and the Civil Rights Movement. Although, I was aware of certain facts, the book provided a comprehensive study of the period. “Courage to Dissent” is a 2012 recipient of the Lillian Smith Book Award. I highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in the Civil Rights Movement.

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