Until Justice Be Done: America’s First Civil Rights Movement, from the Revolution to Reconstruction

Kate Masur. Norton, $32 (448p) ISBN 978-1-324-00593-3
The struggle against racist oppression in the antebellum North is excavated in this illuminating history. Northwestern University history professor Masur (An Example for All the Land) explains that even in so-called “free” states, Blacks were forbidden to vote or testify in court cases involving white people; were required to collect guarantees of good behavior from white sponsors in order to move to a new state; were for years banned from settling in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Oregon; and endured the threat of kidnapping by slave-hunters or arrest and enslavement if they ventured into Southern states. Masur also explores the growth of a multiracial civil rights movement that braved mob violence to challenge these measures through protests, action in state legislatures and Congress, and increasingly powerful antislavery political parties. She tells this complex story in lucid prose that brings out the drama of charged racial politics while insightfully analyzing the era’s tortured constitutional theorizing about states’ rights and Black citizenship. This engrossing study goes beyond sectionalist accounts of the South’s peculiar institution to show how racism and civil rights activism have shaped every corner of America. Photos. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/21/2020
Release date: 03/23/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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