A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America

320 pages

41 illustrations

November, 2008

ISBN: 9780814795637



Also available in



Part of the American History and Culture series


Kevin Mumford is Associate Professor of History and African American studies at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Interzones: Black/White Sex Districts in Chicago and New York in the Early Twentieth Century.

All books by Kevin Mumford

Newark’s volatile past is infamous. The city has become synonymous with the Black Power movement and urban crisis. Its history reveals a vibrant and contentious political culture punctuated by traditional civic pride and an understudied tradition of protest in the black community. Newark charts this important city's place in the nation, from its founding in 1666 by a dissident Puritan as a refuge from intolerance, through the days of Jim Crow and World War II civil rights activism, to the height of postwar integration and the election of its first black mayor.

In this broad and balanced history of Newark, Kevin Mumford applies the concept of the public sphere to the problem of race relations, demonstrating how political ideas and print culture were instrumental in shaping African American consciousness. He draws on both public and personal archives, interpreting official documents—such as newspapers, commission testimony, and government records—alongside interviews, political flyers, meeting minutes, and rare photos.

From the migration out of the South to the rise of public housing and ethnic conflict, Newark explains the impact of African Americans on the reconstruction of American cities in the twentieth century.


  • “Excellent, lively, and learned. . . . An engaging and unsettling study of the city.”

    The Bloomsbury Review

  • “From the city’s early days, where African-Americans fought for recognition and dignity, to their ascension to elected office in the midst of the Black Power movement, and then through countless though crucial fragments as new power brokers emerged amid old differences in vision, tactics and goals, Newark is spellbinding, and worth your attention.Newark

  • &8220;Mumford explores the devastating effect of the riots and how the city police, state police, and National Guard escalated the violence. He raises the controversial possibility that female looters stripping store mannequins may have been making a social statement about economic inequality. He also discusses such divisive personalities as Anthony Imperiale of the Citizens Council, with his anti-black sentiments, and the poet Amiri Baraka, who melded black nationalism with anti-white and, occasionally, anti- Semitic rhetoric.”

    New Jersey Star Ledger

  • “Meticulously researched and engagingly written, Newark tells an important story. Portraying a city that functions as an archetype for Black Power in urban politics, Mumford writes with great sympathy for an earlier liberal integrationist tradition, periodizing and explaining its rise and fall carefully, eloquently, and persuasively.”

    —David Roediger, author of Working toward Whiteness

  • “Kevin Mumford’s history of race relations in Newark is full of arresting insight, fascinating detail, and memorable writing. With interdisciplinary creativity, he offers an important contribution to the understanding of modern America.”

    —Randall Kennedy, Harvard University

  • “While acknowledging—and vividly rendering—the explosive moments in Newark's history, pioneering historian Kevin Mumford shows that the quotidian political struggles of ‘everyday folk’ ultimately turned the city into one ‘peopled and run by African Americans.’ Yet the ravages of de-industrialization, white flight, long-term corruption, and a draconian tax policy had hollowed out the city, transforming blacks’ hard-won prize into a congeries of social, economic, and political problems. Richly documented and immensely readable, Newark is also a model of sophistication. In Mumford’s hands, concepts like the public sphere, citizenship, and racial identity take on a gritty reality that will engage political theorists, historians, and all those who care about the life and death of American cities.”

    —Sonya Michel, University of Maryland, College Park

  • “;Mumford persuasively argues that the city’s residents—both black and white—often engaged in battles over civic symbols, culture and discourse with little direct economic motivation.”

    —Cambridge University Press