Against the Odds
Scholars Who Challenged Racism in the Twentieth Century
Personal accounts by leading scholar-activists in the fight for racial equality
Over the course of the past century the struggle against racism took many forms, from petitions and lawsuits to sit-ins and marches. This book records the testimony of eleven scholar-activists who challenged prevailing racial beliefs and practices while engaging in resistance and reform. Included in this group are nine African Americans (Kenneth B. Clark, John Henrik Clarke, St. Clair Drake, W.E.B. Du Bois, John Hope Franklin, John Glover Jackson, Hylan Lewis, Frank Snowden Jr., and Robert C. Weaver); one Sri Lankan who lives and works in Britain (A. Sivanandan); and one white American (Herbert Aptheker).
Most of these men began their careers before World War II, in a time when biological conceptions of race dominated public policy and severely limited the opportunities available to people of color. By struggling with these impediments in their personal and professional lives, each in his own way helped redefine race as the social and cultural construct it has always been.
To highlight both the similarities and the differences in their experiences, the editors asked each of the subjects the same set of general questions about formative influences, major obstacles, and principal accomplishments. These were followed by more narrowly focused queries about specific writings. Most of the responses were recorded on tape as interviews; several were submitted as written reminiscences; and one, the essay on Du Bois, as the shared recollection of two associates who had worked closely with him for many years.
The result is a singular collection of autobiographical accounts that not only testify to the personal courage of these individuals in overcoming the ravages of racism but also document their contributions to the establishment of a vital antiracist tradition in American thought and culture.
"This edited collection of original essays is a must for all libraries. It provides life stories of 11 major scholars (all but two African American) who profoundly shaped the character of 20th-century scholarship on racial matters. These interview-essays review scholarly lives in revealing detail. Readers discover much new about individual scholars; more importantly, we learn much about the racist history against which black scholars had to struggle with great difficulty. We hear from great "community scholars" John Jackson and John Henrik Clarke, who never had university connections. We read probing accounts by brilliant university scholars Frank Snowden, John Hope Franklin, and St. Clair Drake. We attend to the influential lives of government reformers Robert Weaver, Hylan Lewis, and Kenneth Clark. We heed critical messages of W.E.B. Du Bois, Herbert Aptheker, and Britain's A. Sivanandan. Veteran editors Bowser (sociology, California State Univ., Hayward; Impacts of Racism on White Americans, 2nd ed., 1996) and Kushnick (race relations, Univ. of Manchester; A New Introduction to Poverty, 1999) develop excellent opening and concluding overviews, summarizing the meaning of powerful scholars over more than a century of scholarship and activism. Good bibliographies for each essay."—Choice
"These are compelling personal stories which offer insights into the lives of scholars who, in different ways, challenged racism in the twentieth century. A valuable and timely collection which will be of interest to the general public as well as academicians."—Ernest Allen Jr., University of Massachusetts Amherst