Sweet Land of Liberty



6 comments
Paul Harvey


Here's an advance note for a book that probably will be the most important work of American history published this year, or near the top anyway: Thomas Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North. I'm currently reading it and will be doing a full review of it in a few weeks, but just wanted to mention it briefly here in advance of its official publication in November.

This is, of course, not a "religious history" book per se, and I had no plans to blog on it here. As I read, I had expected some sort of contrast between a highly religious, non-violent southern movement and a much more secular northern one. As it turns out, that is not the case at all. Indeed, religion turns out to be a far more central part of the struggle in the North than most understand. Religious figures people this book to a degree that surprised me. Further, Sugrue details an alliance of the religious and secular left, especially in the pre-World War Two years, that is even more important than I had realized.

Keep your eye out for this work; it's going to be a big one, and sure to be much discussed in American history circles.

6 comments:

Edward J Blum at: September 29, 2008 at 5:50 PM said...

I had heard rumors of this book for a few years. I've only seen bits and pieces of it, but it would not shock me is Sugrue's work takes home some prestigious awards in the next twelve months. Thanks for mentioning it Paul. For those of you who do not know Sugrue's first book - The Origins of the Urban Crisis - remains one of the finest books written in American history in the past 50 years.

John G. Turner at: September 29, 2008 at 8:04 PM said...

Ditto. Glad you informed me of it, Paul. And I echo Ed's comments on Origins of the Urban Crisis. Even though it isn't an "easy read," my students enjoy grappling with the frankly shocking material and the vigorous argument.

Paul Harvey at: September 29, 2008 at 8:45 PM said...

Ed and John: You're going to love this book, it is totally killer, great blending of narrative and analysis. I'll put a post up about my review after it appears, which I'm guessing should be in November not too long after the book is officially published. I'm trying hard to engage the argument and even have a couple of dissents to register, so the review should be more than just a fan letter, although certainly such a letter is warranted.

John G. Turner at: September 30, 2008 at 7:01 PM said...

"Indeed, religion turns out to be a far more central part of the struggle in the North than most understand. Religious figures people this book to a degree that surprised me."

Paul, I was intrigued to read this. There was very little discussion of religion in Origins of the Urban Crisis. From my sketchy memory, I mostly recollect religion being mentioned in the context of various white groups' response to civil rights (Jews, Catholics, etc.). I'll be intrigued to read what Sugrue says about religion and the CRM in the North, even if that's not the primary story.

BlakeatRice at: September 30, 2008 at 10:39 PM said...

I'm hard pressed to think of five books I like more than Origins of the Urban Crisis. I am also really interested to see how Sugure deals with the religious aspect since he is not someone who has written much on religion.

Can't wait to read the book.

Kevin M. Schultz at: October 1, 2008 at 8:18 AM said...

Thomas Sugrue wouldn't remember me (we discussed this topic together at a conference at UVA) but in that back-and-forth, he and I talked about how little the White church (mainly liberal Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism) appears in the story of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1940s and 1950s. He also was curious (and maybe has answered?) the origins of the ecumenical appeal of civil rights so quickly in the early 1960s. This isn't to say that Sugrue has got it all figured out (I haven't read the book yet) but that there might be a few dissertation topics out there for those interested in religion and the civil rights struggles of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Even the great Thomas Sugrue thinks it has been understudied!

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