Books

The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle Outside of the South

In a collection of essays, The Strange Career of a Jim Crow North explores the system of institutionalized racism created by Northern Jim Crow. By bringing together scholars across disciplines, Purnell and co-editor Jeanne Theoharis suggest the possibility that a distinctive American racism originated in the liberal North. 

 

At the core of the book is an analysis of the impact of liberalism across the United States in the twentieth century. 

 

The twelve original essays in the anthology unveil Jim Crow’s many strange embodiments in the North.  Scholars show, first, how the Jim Crow North worked as a system to maintain social, economic, and political inequality in the nation’s most liberal places, and second, chronicle how activists worked to undo the inequities born of Northern Jim Crow policies.

 

Purnell was at the helm of uniting these scholars, providing an opportunity to synthesize different arguments about the unique nature of the Jim Crow North. The book ultimately dispels the myth that the South was the birthplace of American racism and presents a compelling argument that American racism actually originated in the North.

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Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: the Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a civil-rights movement which originated in 1942 and earned a reputation as one of the most important civil rights organizations of the era, was often characterized as an group distinctly reflective of the South.

 

However, in the wake of student sit-ins in the South, CORE created new chapters all over the country, including one in Brooklyn, New York, which quickly established itself as one of the most dynamic chapters in the nation.

In Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings, Purnell explores this chapter's numerous campaigns for economic justice and social equality.

The group's tactics evolved from pickets and sit-ins to more dramatic action, such as dumping trash on the steps of government buildings to protest inadequate public services. The shift in tactics culminated in a memorable "stall-in" at the 1964 World's Fair, which marked a distinct end to the group's interracial, nonviolent phase. By 1966, the group was more aligned with the Black Power movement. A new Brooklyn CORE had emerged.

Purnell draws heavily from archival sources and interviews with individuals directly involved in the chapter. Ultimately, Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings adds to an understanding of the broader Civil Rights Movement by examining how it played out in an iconic northern city.

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