Using interviews with leaders and participants, as well as historical archives, the author documents three interracial sites where white Americans put themselves into unprecedented relationships with African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Asian Americans. In teen summer camps in the New York City and Los Angeles areas, students from largely segregated schools worked and played together; in Washington, DC, families fought blockbusting and white flight to build an integrated neighborhood; and in San Antonio, white community activists joined in coalition with Mexican American groups to advocate for power in a city government monopolized by Anglos. Women often took the lead in organizations that were upsetting patterns of men's protective authority at the same time as white people's racial dominance.
Phyllis Palmer — Phyllis Palmer, Professor of American Studies and Women's Studies at George Washington University, is the author of Domesticity and Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States, 1920-1940.
Palmer, Phyllis. Living as equals: how three white communities struggled to make interracial connections during the civil rights era. Vanderbilt, 2008. 299p index afp; ISBN 9780826515964; ISBN 9780826515971 pbk. Reviewed in 2009jun CHOICE.
Among the more recent histories of the civil rights era, the focus has shifted from biographies of national figures, institutional profiles of organizations, and community studies to white Americans' reactions to the end of segregation. George Washington University professor Palmer's work is rare in its assessment of attempts by some white Americans to embrace the call for a truly integrated society. She studies three experiments in interracial cooperation: teen summer camps sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews from 1957 through 1974; Neighbors Inc., an activist group working in residential neighborhoods in Washington D.C. between 1958 and 1975; and community organizing in San Antonio by the Catholic Church and Communities Organized for Public Service during the period 1948-1983. Based on over 100 oral interviews, Palmer's review of these three experiments suggests that the civil rights era inspired many to reexamine what it meant to be white, and to consider the responsibilities of being a white American. This book will remind readers that the sixties reform spirit created a sense of moral imagination that moved some Americans to make the reality of the country conform to its promise, even if only briefly.
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. -- D. O. Cullen, Collin County Community College District