Little Rock: Race and Resistance at Central High School

Princeton University Press
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The desegregation crisis in Little Rock is a landmark of American history: on September 4, 1957, after the Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in public schools, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called up the National Guard to surround Little Rock Central High School, preventing black students from going in. On September 25, 1957, nine black students, escorted by federal troops, gained entrance. With grace and depth, Little Rock provides fresh perspectives on the individuals, especially the activists and policymakers, involved in these dramatic events. Looking at a wide variety of evidence and sources, Karen Anderson examines American racial politics in relation to changes in youth culture, sexuality, gender relations, and economics, and she locates the conflicts of Little Rock within the larger political and historical context.

Anderson considers how white groups at the time, including middle class women and the working class, shaped American race and class relations. She documents white women's political mobilizations and, exploring political resentments, sexual fears, and religious affiliations, illuminates the reasons behind segregationists' missteps and blunders. Anderson explains how the business elite in Little Rock retained power in the face of opposition, and identifies the moral failures of business leaders and moderates who sought the appearance of federal compliance rather than actual racial justice, leaving behind a legacy of white flight, poor urban schools, and institutional racism.

Probing the conflicts of school desegregation in the mid-century South, Little Rock casts new light on connections between social inequality and the culture wars of modern America.

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About the author

Karen Anderson is professor emeritus of history at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Wartime Women: Sex Roles, Family Relations, and the Status of Women During World War II and coauthor of Present Tense: The United States since 1945.
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Princeton University Press
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Published on
Nov 10, 2013
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History / Modern / 20th Century
History / United States / 20th Century
Political Science / Civil Rights
Political Science / History & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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While great strides have been made in documenting discrimination against women in America, our awareness of discrimination is due in large part to the efforts of a feminist movement dominated by middle-class white women, and is skewed to their experiences. Yet discrimination against racial ethnic women is in fact dramatically different--more complex and more widespread--and without a window into the lives of racial ethnic women our understanding of the full extent of discrimination against all women in America will be woefully inadequate. Now, in this illuminating volume, Karen Anderson offers the first book to examine the lives of women in the three main ethnic groups in the United States--Native American, Mexican American, and African American women--revealing the many ways in which these groups have suffered oppression, and the profound effects it has had on their lives. Here is a thought-provoking examination of the history of racial ethnic women, one which provides not only insight into their lives, but also a broader perception of the history, politics, and culture of the United States. For instance, Anderson examines the clash between Native American tribes and the U.S. government (particularly in the plains and in the West) and shows how the forced acculturation of Indian women caused the abandonment of traditional cultural values and roles (in many tribes, women held positions of power which they had to relinquish), subordination to and economic dependence on their husbands, and the loss of meaningful authority over their children. Ultimately, Indian women were forced into the labor market, the extended family was destroyed, and tribes were dispersed from the reservation and into the mainstream--all of which dramatically altered the woman's place in white society and within their own tribes. The book examines Mexican-American women, revealing that since U.S. job recruiters in Mexico have historically focused mostly on low-wage male workers, Mexicans have constituted a disproportionate number of the illegals entering the states, placing them in a highly vulnerable position. And even though Mexican-American women have in many instances achieved a measure of economic success, in their families they are still subject to constraints on their social and political autonomy at the hands of their husbands. And finally, Anderson cites a wealth of evidence to demonstrate that, in the years since World War II, African-American women have experienced dramatic changes in their social positions and political roles, and that the migration to large urban areas in the North simply heightened the conflict between homemaker and breadwinner already thrust upon them. Changing Woman provides the first history of women within each racial ethnic group, tracing the meager progress they have made right up to the present. Indeed, Anderson concludes that while white middle-class women have made strides toward liberation from male domination, women of color have not yet found, in feminism, any political remedy to their problems.
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