In this New Books Network/Gotham Center for NYC History podcast, guest host Beth Harpaz, editor of the City University of New York website SUM, interviews Jeanne Theoharis, distinguished professor of political science at Brooklyn College. Their topic is a new book just out from NYU Press, co-edited by Theoharis, called The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle outside of the South (NYU Press, 2019).
The book looks at the history of institutionalized racism around the U.S., showing that laws, policies, and entitlements in every region of the country not only created segregated communities, but also promoted affluence and opportunities for white Americans while keeping African Americans out of the middle class.
“There did not need to be a ‘no coloreds’ sign for hotels, restaurants, pools, parks, housing complexes, schools, and jobs to be segregated across the North as well,” wrote Theoharis and her co-editor Professor Brian Purnell of Bowdoin College.
In the podcast, Theoharis shows how African-Americans have faced discrimination in everything from pre-Civil War legal codes in New York, to 20th-century government programs like Social Security and the G.I. bill. She and Harpaz also discuss the ways in which the legacy of these racist policies persist today in public education, the criminal justice system, and other aspects of American society.
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