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  • Cheryl Lowe
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    Message 1 of 4 , Dec 15, 2000
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      --- aml <durwood@...> wrote:
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: A.J. Wright
      > To: 'alabamahistory@egroups.com'
      > Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2000 2:39 PM
      > Subject: [alabamahistory] FW: H-South Review:
      > Dupont on Wilson, _Race and Place in Birming ham_
      > fyi...aj wright // ajwright@...
      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: H-South Review Editor Ian Binnington
      > [mailto:binningt@...]
      > Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2000 1:16 PM
      > To: H-SOUTH@...
      > Subject: H-South Review: Dupont on Wilson, _Race
      > and Place in
      > Birmingham_
      > Published by H-South@... (December,
      > 2000)
      > Bobby M. Wilson. _Race and Place in Birmingham:
      > The Civil Rights and
      > Neighborhood Movements_. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman
      > & Littlefield, 2000. x
      > + 275 pp. Notes, bibliography, and index. $69.00
      > (cloth), ISBN
      > 0-8476-9482-8; $25.95 (paper), ISBN 0-8476-9483-6.
      > Reviewed for H-South by Robert Dupont,
      > rldupont@..., Metropolitan
      > College, University of New Orleans.
      > Local History and Global Analysis
      > The publishers of _Race and Place in Birmingham_
      > classify the work within
      > the fields of Geography and Race Studies. It
      > might also be included within
      > Political Science, Social Science and History.
      > H-South regulars expecting
      > a traditional history monograph should be warned.
      > _Race and Place in
      > Birmingham_ demands a considerable effort of its
      > readers, but those equal
      > to the challenge will enjoy a fresh interpretation
      > of the civil rights and
      > neighborhood movements in Birmingham. At the same
      > time, most readers will
      > experience a more difficult but impressive
      > analysis of modern capitalism
      > and its effects upon social movements, as well as
      > the author's
      > prescriptions for societal change.
      > Wilson seeks to explain the dynamics of the two
      > social movements in
      > Birmingham not only as local phenomena, but also
      > as the result of "larger
      > structural and institutional forces" (p. 2). He
      > begins with an analysis of
      > postmodern politics as the replacement for
      > interest group politics and
      > pluralist theory. Whereas pluralist politics
      > separated politics from
      > private life, Wilson argues, postmodern politics
      > provides the occasion for
      > emancipation and development of different
      > identities. Though class figures
      > heavily in Wilson's analysis (and even more
      > heavily in his prescriptions),
      > class is only one aspect of a individual's
      > identity. The postmodern world
      > enables new identifies (individual and social) to
      > emerge. Birmingham
      > serves as the case study to illustrate the larger
      > dynamics of national and
      > international capitalism as well as local social
      > movements.
      > Wilson's description of modernity indicts the
      > tendencies of the nation
      > state toward homogeneity, uniformity and
      > standardization. These
      > characteristics conform too closely, he argues, to
      > the dominant features of
      > capitalism, thus putting the power of the state in
      > the service of the
      > ideological/economic system. Wilson briefly
      > recapitulates the history of
      > Birmingham to establish that city's post-Civil War
      > experience as an example
      > of modernization. From pre-modern slavery to the
      > Prussian route,
      > Birmingham becomes industrialized and adopts
      > twentieth-century capitalism
      > without disturbing its race practices. In fact,
      > the conditions of racism
      > promoted segmentation of labor and helped to
      > conceal economic inequality.
      > The Great Depression and the policies of the New
      > Deal restructured the
      > black community and created conditions favorable
      > to the civil rights
      > movement. The decline of tenant farming and the
      > concentration of black
      > population in urban areas--along with the rise in
      > black churches, colleges
      > and businesses--provided the context for social
      > and political change. In
      > other parts of the United States, pluralist
      > politics in urban areas
      > absorbed black voters without giving up real
      > power. But the race policies
      > of Birmingham allow no such accommodation.
      > Furthermore, Wilson argues, the
      > post-depression political economy emphasized
      > stability and increased
      > consumption--factors that further suppressed class
      > differences. In
      > Birmingham, an emerging black middle class favored
      > peaceful change and
      > negotiation instead of direct confrontation.
      > Black identity begins to mature in the South after
      > World War II. The
      > worldwide anti-colonial movement combined with
      > domestic changes and the
      > writings of black intellectuals to nurture
      > resistance based on racial
      > identify, not class. In Birmingham, the white
      > response to even tentative
      > black requests for change was widespread,
      > including local action, appeals
      > to the state legislature, the organization of
      > Citizens Councils and
      > resistance by white unions. For a time, neither
      > the political nor economic
      > institutions of the city would alter the status
      > quo. Change came to
      > Birmingham only when that economic and political
      > consensus broke down.
      > Wilson tells the story of the "Battle for
      > Birmingham" (Chapter 8)
      > succinctly. This is not a comprehensive history
      > of local civil rights, but
      > rather an example of his larger thesis. Under
      > pressure from local blacks,
      > the national government and, most important, the
      > national and international
      > press, the power elite of the city split.
      > Although the political
      > leadership remained adamant, the economic
      > leadership began to weight the
      > damage being done to the city's image and
      > interests. The city adopted a
      > new form of government, accepted biracial
      > negotiating committees and
      > eventually repealed segregation ordinances. These
      > events, according to
      > Wilson, were the result of post-World War II
      > economic changes that--by the
      > 1960s--tipped the political balance in favor of
      > modest political
      > reform. In the Fordist economy that came to the
      > South, the appearance of
      > efficiency and the ability of communities to
      > attract capital investment was
      > crucial. Racial turmoil became incompatible with
      > economic
      > development. "This moment was one of the few in
      > U.S. history where blacks
      > benefited from market forces in their struggle for
      > racial
      > equality. Capitalists attempted to avoid places
      > with stigmas of racism"
      > (p. 107).
      > The years after Birmingham's most difficult
      > troubles saw an increase in the
      > national welfare state and the development of
      > specific, national urban
      > programs such as the Community Action Program
      > (CAP) and Model
      > Cities. Wilson admires the grass roots process
      > inherent in CAP, but
      > views Model Cities as an attempt of municipal
      > leaders to recapture control
      > of anti-poverty efforts. Furthermore, national
      > welfare policies tended to
      > reinforce the assumption of those opposed to
      > anti-poverty programs that
      > blacks benefited disproportionately. Income
      > distribution improved under
      > such programs, but Wilson regrets that
      > anti-poverty
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