Chapter 1 opens the volume with a social psychology perspective from Steven Fein, addressing what racism is and its continued impact on American life. The chapter begins by examining the definitions and levels of racism in the United States. Fein then moves to examining manifestations of implicit racism and modern discrimination, as well as their underlying causes. The chapter closes by considering different approaches that have been suggested for combating stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination.
Edward L. Ayers
Chapter 2 holds that Reconstruction is a generally misunderstood event. To better understand Reconstruction, Edward L. Ayers traces the political roots and motivations driving Reconstruction beginning with the 1864 presidential election through to 1870 and the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. Ayers explores how opposition from northern Democrats and white Southerners not only enabled but pushed Reconstruction even further than Republicans intended.
Charles F. Irons
Chapter 3 examines African American religious leadership during the Reconstruction period. Charles F. Irons discusses the differences in church leadership and autonomy between urban and rural southern areas as contrasting emancipation experiences. Irons argues that the development of independent African American churches, especially in urban areas, was a way of breaking from white paternalism, and further discusses the correlation between religious power and political power.
Kidada E. Williams
Chapter 4 discusses the effects of night-riding and white terrorism on African Americans and on how they came to view the world in which they lived. Kidada E. Williams narrows her focus to the attack on one family, examining their lives before, during, and after the attack. Williams argues that night-riding and white terrorism impacted African Americans far beyond the moment of attack in ways that were physical, economic, and psychological and that these effects further shaped African Americans’ worldviews.
Elizabeth R. Varon
Chapter 5 discusses the life and work of Joseph T. Wilson, a Civil War veteran, through his literary career. Rather than examining Wilson’s book, The Black Phalanx: African American Soldiers in the War of Independence, the War of 1812, and the Civil War, solely as a reference work, Elizabeth R. Varon argues that Wilson’s career as a writer was inseparable from his political activism. In this chapter, Varon considers how Wilson’s lived experiences during the war and, later, in postwar Norfolk impacted and informed his writing.
Thomas J. Brown
Chapter 6 examines the “mortuary politics” of Reconstruction. Thomas J. Brown examines Randolph Cemetery in Columbia, South Carolina, which as a burial institution became a promotion for African American access to elected office and African American militia service. Furthermore, Brown considers how this segregated cemetery could form a conceptual bridge to later racial integration.
Julian Maxwell Hayter
Chapter 7 focuses on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a direct assault on institutionalized racial discrimination. Julian Maxwell Hayter examines the political and racial climates that influenced the act and discusses a number of the act’s key titles to show how it moved beyond eliminating racial segregation. Hayter shows that while the act did not end discrimination and segregation in all forms, it introduced a shift in American racial reforms.
Claudrena N. Harold
In Chapter 8, the University of Virginia serves as a case study of the challenges facing African American workers at an institution with not only stated commitment to racial diversity but also identifiable markers of progress in those areas. Through discussion of the political and economic battles of African American low-wage earners at UVA from 1969 to 2006, Claudrena N. Harold explores what, if any, progress has been made and holds that low wage African American workers’ concerns must be central to any movement for racial justice.