Civil Rights in New York City: From World War II to the Giuliani Era

Civil Rights in New York City: From World War II to the Giuliani Era

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Civil Rights in New York City: From World War II to the Giuliani Era
    Book Description:

    Since the 1960s, most U.S. History has been written as if the civil rights movement were primarily or entirely a Southern history. This book joins a growing body of scholarship that demonstrates the importance of the Northern history of the movement. The contributors make clear that civil rights in New York City were contested in many ways, beginning long before the 1960s, and across many groups with a surprisingly wide range of political perspectives. Civil Rights in New York City provides a sample of the rich historical record of the fight for racial justice in the city that was home to the nation's largest population of African-Americans in mid-twentiethcentury America. The ten contributions brought together here address varying aspects of New York's civil rights struggle, including the role of labor, community organizing campaigns, the pivotal actions of prominent national leaders, the movement for integrated housing, the fight for racial equality in public higher education, and the part played by a revolutionary group that challenged structural, societal inequality. Long before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Jr. helped launch the Harlem Bus Boycott of 1941. The New York City's Teachers' Union had been fighting for racial equality since 1935. Ella Baker worked with the NAACP and the city's grassroots movement to force the city to integrate its public school system. In 1962, a direct action campaign by Brooklyn CORE, a racially integrated membership organization, forced the city to provide better sanitation services to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn's largest black community. Integrating Rochdale Village in South Jamaica, the largest middle-class housing cooperative in New York, brought together an unusual coalition of leftists, liberal Democrats, moderate Republicans, pragmatic government officials, and business executives. In reexamining these and other key events, Civil Rights in New York City reaffirms their importance to the larger national fight for equality for Americans across racial lines.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4917-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Civil Rights in New York City
    (pp. 1-9)

    Since the 1960s, most U.S. history has been written as if the civil rights movement were primarily or entirely a southern history. Of course, this is incorrect. The fight for civil rights has always been a national struggle, although the historian Thomas Sugrue writes: “Most northern communities did not erect signs to mark separate black and white facilities…. Northern blacks lived as second-class citizens, unencumbered by the most blatant of southern-style Jim Crow laws but still trapped in an economic, political, and legal regime that seldom recognized them as equals.” Northern activists mounted campaigns to confront racial discrimination. “Throughout the...

  5. 1 To Be a Good American: The New York City Teachers Union and Race during the Second World War
    (pp. 10-31)

    In 1942, May Quinn, a civics teacher at Public School 227 in Brooklyn, read an anti-Semitic leaflet titled “The First Americans” in her class. The publication listed the names of “brave Americans” during wartime. Absent from the list of those who served honorably during wartime were Jewish Americans, which was particularly unusual in a city with a notable Jewish population. The leaflet also contained the names of Americans who performed dishonorable acts, and all the names that Quinn read to her class from the leaflet that day were Jewish. Quinn also praised Hitler and Mussolini. She called Jews a “dull...

  6. 2 Cops, Schools, and Communism: Local Politics and Global Ideologies—New York City in the 1950s
    (pp. 32-51)

    In 1952, Ella Baker was elected president of the large New York City NAACP branch, becoming its first woman president. She had been active in the branch for several years, working with the youth council and several other projects, but her new post provided her with the latitude and authority to orchestrate some of the kinds of political campaigns she had long envisioned. After traveling around the country for two decades aiding grassroots groups to develop activist campaigns for change, she now had an opportunity to shape and direct such a movement in the heart of New York City. Her...

  7. 3 “Taxation without Sanitation Is Tyranny”: Civil Rights Struggles over Garbage Collection in Brooklyn, New York, during the Fall of 1962
    (pp. 52-76)

    During the early 1960s, many residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant saw the neighborhood’s filthy streets as a sign of their community’s low status in New York City. The trash that accumulated on sidewalks and in streets crowded public space with its bulk and its stench. Children had to play around abandoned cars. Pedestrians on their way home from work dodged rats and vermin that darted from the asphalt to alleyways where bags of uncollected household garbage sat festering, sometimes for days at a time. Over the years, residents periodically complained to elected officials and appointees to the city’s sanitation department, but the...

  8. 4 Rochdale Village and the Rise and Fall of Integrated Housing in New York City
    (pp. 77-94)

    When Rochdale Village opened in southeastern Queens in late 1963, it was the largest housing cooperative in the world. When fully occupied, its 5,860 apartments contained about 25,000 residents. Rochdale Village was a limited-equity, middle-income cooperative. Its apartments could not be resold for a profit, and with the average perroom charges when opened of $21 a month, it was on the low end of the middle-income spectrum.¹ It was laid out on a massive 170-acre superblock development, with no through streets, and only winding pedestrian paths, lined with newly planted trees, crossing a greensward connecting the twenty massive cruciform apartment...

  9. 5 Conservative and Liberal Opposition to the New York City School-Integration Campaign
    (pp. 95-117)

    One of the most successful periods for New York City liberalism was during the mayoralty of Robert F. Wagner (1954–1966). During these years, benefits for workers rapidly increased, public housing was built, and more blacks and Latinos gained government jobs.¹ But at the height of liberalism, the city faced a great deal of racial turmoil. Despite its reputation as a bastion of liberalism and the mayor’s efforts at making New York a place where harmonious race relations existed, many in the city failed to embrace black New Yorkers’ fight for full equality. While New York politicians, union officials, and...

  10. 6 The Dead End of Despair: Bayard Rustin, the 1968 New York School Crisis, and the Struggle for Racial Justice
    (pp. 118-140)

    On April 6, 1968, Bayard Rustin received the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) John Dewey Award, an acknowledgment by the New York City union of the civil rights leader’s incalculable contributions to progressive social activism. A founder of CORE and close associate of Martin Luther King Jr., Rustin had helped invent the Freedom Rides and had organized the celebrated 1963 March on Washington. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he was a leading American pacifist and shaped the theory and practice of nonviolence. As the protégé of black labor leader A. Philip Randolph, Rustin also championed the victims of economic inequality....

  11. 7 The Young Lords and the Social and Structural Roots of Late Sixties Urban Radicalism
    (pp. 141-160)

    Against the backdrop of America’s spiraling urban crisis in the late 1960s, an unexpected cohort of young radicals unleashed a dramatic chain of urban guerilla protests that riveted the media and alarmed Mayor John V. Lindsay’s New York. From garbage-dumping demonstrations to a series of church and hospital occupations—termed “offensives” after the dramatic Vietnamese military campaign against U.S. forces in 1968 known as the Tet Offensive—this small interracial group exploded into the country’s consciousness, staging its social grievances with infectious irreverence and distinctive imagination. They had enormous ideas, a flair for the dramatic, and a penchant for linking...

  12. 8 “Brooklyn College Belongs to Us”: Black Students and the Transformation of Public Higher Education in New York City
    (pp. 161-181)

    Black student activism exploded in the spring of 1969. These students followed in the footsteps of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and were deeply influenced by its radical and Black Nationalist organizers, many of whom had left the South and were active on college campuses across the country. Coinciding with the grassroots community control of schools movement, African American college students in New York City aimed to redefine the relationship between educational institutions and urban black communities. In the spring of 1969, students at every single division of the City University of New York rose up in protest. The two-week...

  13. 9 Racial Events, Diplomacy, and Dinkins’s Image
    (pp. 182-203)

    New York City is a political environment replete with socially isolated ethnic groups. Groups usually come into contact with each other in the commercial realm, and retail sales has been the theater for this encounter. This is how the Chinese met whites and how Jews met blacks. Usually the buyer and seller enjoy a limited and peaceful transaction, but occasionally there is a misunderstanding that leads to conflict. An incident may start as an individual conflict then escalate into a confrontation of imagined and real competing group interests. When that happens, a simple misunderstanding or conflict can take on a...

  14. 10 “One City, One Standard”: The Struggle for Equality in Rudolph Giuliani’s New York
    (pp. 204-218)

    One City, One Standard.” Rudolph Giuliani, New York’s mayor from 1994 to 2001, defined his administration, and himself, through these words. They were more than a campaign slogan, although they served him well as such during his successful 1993 bid for City Hall. They were also an articulation of his understanding of “equality,” a word that, along with “freedom,” comes closer to capturing the essence of the American national experience than any other. Americans have argued over the meaning of this elusive word—sometimes violently—for centuries. Contexts and circumstances change, but the questions remain the same. What is equality?...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 219-266)
  16. List of Contributors
    (pp. 267-268)
  17. Index
    (pp. 269-282)