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South of the South: Jewish Activists and the Civil Rights Movement in Miami, 1945-1960

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"A must-read for anyone interested in the history of civil rights, the roles and varied motivations of southern Jews in the movement, the interaction of blacks and Jews, the role of hate-groups and the anti-communist hysteria in silencing or harassing the forces of positive change, and the specific place of Miami, Miami Beach, and Florida in the struggle. Raymond Mohl's wr "A must-read for anyone interested in the history of civil rights, the roles and varied motivations of southern Jews in the movement, the interaction of blacks and Jews, the role of hate-groups and the anti-communist hysteria in silencing or harassing the forces of positive change, and the specific place of Miami, Miami Beach, and Florida in the struggle. Raymond Mohl's writing style is dynamic and fully accessible for the lay as well as scholarly audience that I expect this work will attract."--Mark K. Bauman, Atlanta Metropolitan College Using unusual and revealing primary materials from the careers of two remarkable Jewish women, Raymond Mohl offers an original interpretation of the role of Jewish civil rights activists in promoting racial change in post-World War II Miami. He describes the city's political climate after the war as characterized by segregation, aggressive anti-Semitism, and a powerful strain of cold war McCarthyism. In this hostile environment the dynamic leadership of two northern newcomers, Matilda "Bobbi" Graff and Shirley M. Zoloth, played a critical role in the city's campaign for racial reform. Working with the Miami chapter of the Civil Rights Congress, established in 1948, Graff was instrumental in the organization's stand against the Ku Klux Klan, its protests against lynchings and police brutality, and its work with Florida's black civil rights leaders such as Harry T. Moore. With the Miami Congress of Racial Equality, Zoloth helped to launch a lunch counter sit-in campaign (a year before the more famous student sit-ins of 1960) that ultimately resulted in the desegregation of downtown public accommodations. This analysis of the movement between 1945 and 1960 substantiates a new but now dominant interpretation of civil rights history that sees grassroots action as the powerful engine that drove racial change. It emphasizes the major role played by women in the cause and documents the variety of civil rights experiences of Jews who migrated to Miami in large numbers during the mid-century decades. Committed to social justice, they built activist organizations, challenged segregationists and anti-Semites, and worked with black activists to break down Jim Crow barriers. Original documents written by both women, including Graff's autobiographical memoir, demonstrate a level of Jewish activism, especially by women, that was unique for the time and place--the postwar American South. Their own words vividly describe fear, harassment, family and community pressures, government intrigue, and individual betrayal. As Mohl's groundbreaking history illustrates, the perseverance of these women and their small band of supporters is a testament to their strength and an inspiration for continued reform in America. Raymond A. Mohl, professor of history at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, is the editor of Searching for the Sunbelt: Historical Perspectives on a Region and the coeditor of The New African-American Urban History and Urban Policy in Twentieth-Century America


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"A must-read for anyone interested in the history of civil rights, the roles and varied motivations of southern Jews in the movement, the interaction of blacks and Jews, the role of hate-groups and the anti-communist hysteria in silencing or harassing the forces of positive change, and the specific place of Miami, Miami Beach, and Florida in the struggle. Raymond Mohl's wr "A must-read for anyone interested in the history of civil rights, the roles and varied motivations of southern Jews in the movement, the interaction of blacks and Jews, the role of hate-groups and the anti-communist hysteria in silencing or harassing the forces of positive change, and the specific place of Miami, Miami Beach, and Florida in the struggle. Raymond Mohl's writing style is dynamic and fully accessible for the lay as well as scholarly audience that I expect this work will attract."--Mark K. Bauman, Atlanta Metropolitan College Using unusual and revealing primary materials from the careers of two remarkable Jewish women, Raymond Mohl offers an original interpretation of the role of Jewish civil rights activists in promoting racial change in post-World War II Miami. He describes the city's political climate after the war as characterized by segregation, aggressive anti-Semitism, and a powerful strain of cold war McCarthyism. In this hostile environment the dynamic leadership of two northern newcomers, Matilda "Bobbi" Graff and Shirley M. Zoloth, played a critical role in the city's campaign for racial reform. Working with the Miami chapter of the Civil Rights Congress, established in 1948, Graff was instrumental in the organization's stand against the Ku Klux Klan, its protests against lynchings and police brutality, and its work with Florida's black civil rights leaders such as Harry T. Moore. With the Miami Congress of Racial Equality, Zoloth helped to launch a lunch counter sit-in campaign (a year before the more famous student sit-ins of 1960) that ultimately resulted in the desegregation of downtown public accommodations. This analysis of the movement between 1945 and 1960 substantiates a new but now dominant interpretation of civil rights history that sees grassroots action as the powerful engine that drove racial change. It emphasizes the major role played by women in the cause and documents the variety of civil rights experiences of Jews who migrated to Miami in large numbers during the mid-century decades. Committed to social justice, they built activist organizations, challenged segregationists and anti-Semites, and worked with black activists to break down Jim Crow barriers. Original documents written by both women, including Graff's autobiographical memoir, demonstrate a level of Jewish activism, especially by women, that was unique for the time and place--the postwar American South. Their own words vividly describe fear, harassment, family and community pressures, government intrigue, and individual betrayal. As Mohl's groundbreaking history illustrates, the perseverance of these women and their small band of supporters is a testament to their strength and an inspiration for continued reform in America. Raymond A. Mohl, professor of history at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, is the editor of Searching for the Sunbelt: Historical Perspectives on a Region and the coeditor of The New African-American Urban History and Urban Policy in Twentieth-Century America

16 review for South of the South: Jewish Activists and the Civil Rights Movement in Miami, 1945-1960

  1. 4 out of 5

    Joan Cochran

    This was one of the most useful books I found while writing a short story collection about Miami during the mid-century. It threw light on the "real" Miami when segregation and anti-Semiticism were a way of life and, I hate to admit it, I didn't think much about segregated bathrooms or water fountains. It turned out that one of the people featured there, Bobbie Graf, is my friend's cousin and we've had some communication. Her story about almost being arrested in the hospital after having a baby This was one of the most useful books I found while writing a short story collection about Miami during the mid-century. It threw light on the "real" Miami when segregation and anti-Semiticism were a way of life and, I hate to admit it, I didn't think much about segregated bathrooms or water fountains. It turned out that one of the people featured there, Bobbie Graf, is my friend's cousin and we've had some communication. Her story about almost being arrested in the hospital after having a baby -- for civil rights movement activities -- is amazing. It's the kind of story you don't hear too often and that, sadly, is missing from the new movie, "Selma." A lot of rabbis and Jews marched and died in that movement and I never realized just how backward Miami was at the time (I was pretty young during that era). This is the true story of the neon city, one that new Floridians never seem to hear about.

  2. 5 out of 5

    RRuz

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Dobrinski

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Wells

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book is half about my grandma, holla.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  7. 5 out of 5

    Camille Hall

  8. 5 out of 5

    Corinna Moebius

  9. 5 out of 5

    Korri

  10. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ilana

  12. 4 out of 5

    Eryn Nelken

  13. 4 out of 5

    Loren

  14. 4 out of 5

    Broadsnark

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tri M. Vo

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Thompson

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