New Hampshire Historian Highlights Northeast's Complicated Past Of Racism

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From Ferguson to Boston, questions of race and racial disparities still haunt America.

On Tuesday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh appointed the city's very first chief of diversity, to try to make the city's workforce more reflective of the city's population. Meanwhile, some members of the Boston City Council want local colleges and universities to hire more minority faculty members.

The march toward racial equality is slow, and yet Boston — and the northeast in general — has long presented itself as a model of racial equality. It was the home of abolitionism, a refuge for blacks fleeing the Jim Crow South and it's where people like Jackie Robinson and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Brooke broke the color barrier.

But historian Jason Sokol says the truth about race in the northeast is more complex and troubling. He argues that, despite post-World War II advances in racial justice, the northeast has often turned a blind eye to patterns of segregation, discrimination and racial violence.

In his new book, he examines this complex history of race with stories from New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts — including how a city like Boston can be both the cradle of abolition and the scene of race riots over busing.


Jason Sokol, professor of history at the University of New Hampshire. His new book is "All Eyes are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn — The Conflicted Soul of the Northeast." He tweets @jasokol.

Peniel Joseph, contributing editor at The Root. Founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, where he is also a professor of history. He’s author of “Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America,” “Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama” and “Stokely: A Life.” He tweets @PenielJoseph.

This article was originally published on December 02, 2014.

This segment aired on December 2, 2014.


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