Ambitious, engrossing, analytically lucid…As the Obama presidency ends…the vision of a national postracial reorientation seems to have been fatally undermined by worsening racial conflictsby Supreme Court majorities restricting African-American and Latino voting rights, by a reborn nativism that in many instances appears more virulent than its mid-19th-century version and by questions about the criminal justice system…It is certainly possible that when this decade ends it will have confirmed the relevance of W. E. B. Du Bois's grim prophecy about America's everlasting racism. Jason Sokol's exceptional All Eyes Are Upon Us prepares us for just such a possibility.
White fans from across Brooklyn -- Irish, Jewish, and Italian -- came out to support Jackie Robinson when he broke baseball's color barrier with the Dodgers in 1947, even as the city's blacks were shunted into segregated neighborhoods. The African-American politician Ed Brooke won a senate seat in Massachusetts in 1966, when the state was 97% white, yet his political career was undone by the resistance to busing in Boston. Across the Northeast over the last half-century, blacks have encountered housing and employment discrimination as well as racial violence. But the gap between the northern ideal and the region's segregated reality left small but meaningful room for racial progress. Forced to reckon with the disparity between their racial practices and their racial preaching, blacks and whites forged interracial coalitions and demanded that the region live up to its promise of equal opportunity.
A revelatory account of the tumultuous modern history of race and politics in the Northeast, All Eyes Are Upon Us presents the Northeast as a microcosm of America as a whole: outwardly democratic, inwardly conflicted, but always striving to live up to its highest ideals.
“This groundbreaking history shows a civil rights movement beyond Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis. An important new voice in 20th-century history, Sokol expands the civil rights story to include segregated schools and racial politics in the Northeast.”
“All Eyes Are Upon Us succeeds in excavating unfamiliar insights.”
Kansas City Star
“You will certainly come away with a better understanding of the continuum of racial discomfort that defines American society as it lurches between multi-racial progress and disturbing disappointment.”
History News Network
“All Eyes Are Upon Us offers equally fascinating portraits of several successful black politicians a refreshing departure from recent histories of iconic American figures and epic events aimed for the best-seller lists. He also allows the perceptions of many participants in this history, major and minor, to shape and deepen his own.”
“An honest, conscientious book.”
“With sharp research and insights, Sokol follows this blithe and self-congratulatory legacy through the election of President Barack Obama.”-
2015 Chautauqua Prize Finalist
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New York Times Book Review
“A prescient book that offers a great deal to explain a national self-deception of stunning brevity Ambitious, engrossing, analytically lucid It is certainly possible that when this decade ends it will have confirmed the relevance of W.E.B. Du Bois's grim prophecy about America's everlasting racism. Jason Sokol's exceptional All Eyes Are Upon Us prepares us for just such a possibility.”
“A skilled storyteller, Sokol offers a series of interwoven case studies on topics that are sometimes familiar but, more often, not well known Carefully balancing an appreciation of the symbolism of interracial politics with recognition of the forces that remain untouched by it, All Eyes Are Upon Us reminds us if we need reminding that the events unfolding in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island and too many other communities are embedded in a complex and problematic history of both racial advances and obstacles to progress.”-
The American Northeast, popularly a bastion of abolitionism and a haven for black Americans fleeing the Jim Crow South, was and is the home of deep-seated racism and has a long history of segregation.
Sokol (History/Univ. of New Hampshire; There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975, 2006) exposes the troubled truth about the North's racial integration.The Northern states could point to the Southern states' ongoing practices of Jim Crow legislation, white supremacist violence and suppression of voting rights with righteous disgust, but the author shows how, in unsubtle and pernicious ways, the North, too, was "at war with itself." Sokol tracks the tireless work of a handful of reformers who helped uncover the hypocrisy of the Northeast's practices in politics, housing and even sports. In 1939, the school superintendent of Springfield, Massachusetts, John Granrud, attempted to pioneer revolutionary hiring practices to incorporate a "crazy quilt of races, religions and ethnicities" and celebrate the plethora of differences within the student body. The school's integration gained national notoriety and even a Hollywood film (It Happened in Springfield)—until a Democratic backlash shut it down in 1945. Claiming that there was no discrimination, the new superintendent asked, "why enact, or continue, a program to root it out?" The facts within ethnically divided neighborhoods like Brooklyn belied this smug attitude. The arrival of Jackie Robinson challenged Dodgers fans to "step away from the old prejudices," not just in embracing the black ballplayer, but in the experience of integration in the stands at Ebbets Field. "Segregated housing," Sokol asserts, "was the scourge of the North"—from the Robinson family's travails at finding a welcoming community in Connecticut to the deeply divisive struggle to integrate Northeastern schools from 1957 onward. The elections of enormously influential African-Americans like Massachusetts Sen. Edward Brooke and New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm offered new champions to equality, while Connecticut Sen. Abraham Ribicoff challenged his colleagues to hold the mirror up to look inward and acknowledge racism's intractable existence. With sharp research and insights, Sokol follows this blithe and self-congratulatory legacy through the election of President Barack Obama.
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