Was there ever really a black-Jewish alliance in twentieth-century America? And if there was, what happened to it? In Troubling the Waters, Cheryl Greenberg answers these questions more definitively than they have ever been answered before, drawing the richest portrait yet of what was less an alliance than a tumultuous political engagement--but one that energized the civil rights revolution, shaped the agenda of liberalism, and affected the course of American politics as a whole.
Drawing on extensive new research in the archives of organizations such as the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, Greenberg shows that a special black-Jewish political relationship did indeed exist, especially from the 1940s to the mid-1960s--its so-called "golden era"--and that this engagement galvanized and broadened the civil rights movement. But even during this heyday, she demonstrates, the black-Jewish relationship was anything but inevitable or untroubled. Rather, cooperation and conflict coexisted throughout, with tensions caused by economic clashes, ideological disagreements, Jewish racism, and black anti-Semitism, as well as differences in class and the intensity of discrimination faced by each group. These tensions make the rise of the relationship all the more surprising--and its decline easier to understand.
Tracing the growth, peak, and deterioration of black-Jewish engagement over the course of the twentieth century, Greenberg shows that the history of this relationship is very much the history of American liberalism--neither as golden in its best years nor as absolute in its collapse as commonly thought.
"[Greenberg's] smart and comprehensive analysis . . . is one of the best of a spate of new books on this topic, with her fine research and careful delineation of the facts."--Publishers Weekly
"The vexed topic of black-Jewish relations in 20th-century America requires a brave writer, and Greenberg confronts the issue with honesty and dedication. While she provides ample evidence that the golden age of cooperation between the two groups wasn't as harmonious as generally believed, she also provides numerous examples of cohesion during the more fraught times. Greenberg is not only adept at uncovering little-known controversies and victories; her brief exposition of the famous New York City teachers' strike in the late 1960s, an incident widely credited with bringing to a boil simmering black-Jewish tensions, is a masterpiece of compression and insight."--Atlantic Monthly
"Greenberg's most impressive achievement is the way she weaves the story of black-Jewish relations into the larger history of American liberalism in the twentieth century...While the likelihood of another 'golden age' of black-Jewish relations seems remote, what is certain is that Greenberg's book will be essential reading for anyone interested in this complex relationship and in the history of American liberalism more broadly."--Eric L. Goldstein, American Historical Review
"Troubling the Waters gives textured life to more than 100 years of civil rights efforts and offers a window into the complex, political decision-making of courageous and often admirable individuals."--Jane Gordon, Diverse
Table of Contents:
CHAPTER ONE: Settling In 15
CHAPTER TWO: Of Our Economic Strivings 48
CHAPTER THREE: Wars and Rumors of Wars 74
CHAPTER FOUR: And Why Not Every Man? 114
CHAPTER FIVE: Red Menace 169
CHAPTER SIX: Things Fall Apart 205