From the Grassroots to the Supreme Court: Brown v. Board of Education and American Democracy.

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  • Author(s): Kruse, Kevin M.
  • Source:
    Journal of Southern History. May2006, Vol. 72 Issue 2, p514-516. 3p.


LJ Reviews 2003 December #1

The Civil Rights Movement had a profound impact on American society, causing the collapse of the system of legalized segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks in the Southern states. Chappell (history, Univ. of Arkansas) explores the dynamics that allowed the movement to succeed and to do so, in contrast to the Civil War, with amazingly little death and violence. At the center of the movement was a religious tradition inspired by the Hebrew prophets and informed by the realism of Reinhold Niebuhr. This was a tradition that had the power to move people to commitment, sacrifice, and self-discipline, power that liberal optimism lacked, even as segregationists' rhetoric imploded. Chappell's meticulously researched yet engaging narrative gives the religious aspects of the movement their well-deserved due. At the same time, he places the account in a richly textured tapestry of American culture and intellectual life. This nuanced, compellingly argued book makes sense of the contingent factors that conspired to bring the movement success and explains why it is so difficult to marshal those dynamics for further social change. It belongs in every library.-Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

PW Reviews 2003 November #3

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that the South could hew "a stone of hope" from segregation's "mountain of despair." This book explores the role that religion played in shaping that hope. In a brilliant chapter on the grassroots character of the civil rights cause, Chappell argues that the movement could be considered less a political protest with religious dimensions than a religious revival with political and social dimensions. The civil rights struggle had many of the elements of revival-miracle stories, mass religious enthusiasm, music, "conversion" experiences, even messianic expectations. Chappell writes engagingly, drawing an important revisionist portrait of the crucial role of religion in defeating Jim Crow. (Jan. 26) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.