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Race and Liberty in America
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Race and Liberty in America
The Essential Reader
Jonathan Bean (Editor)

Paperback • 352 pages • 17 figures • 6 x 9 inches

ISBN-13: 978-0-81319-231-4

Launch Date: 7/1/2009

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky for The Independent Institute

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Overview

Since its emergence, the United States’ two-party political system has been criticized for polarizing public opinion. Instead of objective deliberation of such major issues as race relations, partisanship has too often undermined the process and distorted the outcome. One group of thinkers, however, has refused to be defined by either conservative or liberal classifications—classical liberals have shaped the history of the nation by fighting for abolitionism and the allied struggles against Chinese exclusion, abuse of native Americans, Japanese internment, and Jim Crow and other racial distinctions in the law. Nonetheless, the nation’s preoccupation with left-versus-right politics has overshadowed how classical liberals have been decisive in shaping the history of race and liberty in America.

Race and Liberty in America explains the major themes of the anti-racist, classical liberal tradition of individual liberty and equality, demonstrating how it has inspired individuals to improve race relations in the United States. Rooted in the Judeo-Christian natural-law tradition, classical liberals have advocated freedom from governmental interference, abolition of prejudicial law, equality under a uniform rule of law guaranteed by the Constitution, and market-based entrepreneurial opportunity.

The book offers numerous documents, from the Declaration of Independence to the 2006 Open Letter on Immigration and beyond, as well as government statutes, sermons, party platforms, and speeches that demonstrate how classical liberalism was at the forefront of the fight to change America’s racial inequality. Each chapter investigates a specific time period in American history, ranging from the Revolution to the present, and addresses major events and concerns. The commentary assembled here covers the antislavery movement, post-Civil War reconstruction, Progressive Era, Republican era of the 1920s, the Great Depression and World War II, and the civil rights era. Citing such influential Americans as Thomas Jefferson, Louis Marshall, Frederick Douglass, and Booker T. Washington, plus those missing from other books and heretofore lost to history, Bean demonstrates the major impact of classical liberal thought on race relations and investigates how it has helped shape both law and public opinion.

Contents

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Civil Rights and Classical Liberalism
    1. Anti-Slavery (1776–1853)
    2. The Republican Era (1854–1876)
    3. Colorblindness in a Color-Conscious Era (1877–1920)
    4. Republicans and Race (1921–1932)
    5. The Roosevelt Years (1933–1945)
    6. Classical Liberals in the Civil Rights Era (1946–1964)
    7. Individualists in an Age of Group Discrimination (1964–Present)
    Conclusion: Past, Present, Future
    Recommended Reading
    Index
    About the Editor

Detailed Summary

Highlights

  • In the fight for freedom and justice, consistent moral arguments are crucial for long-term success. Although Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder, that fact did not undermine the natural rights theory set forth in the Declaration of Independence. In fact, James Forten, a free black who fought in the Revolutionary War, borrowed Jefferson’s phrases when he petitioned against a state bill that would have deprived blacks of rights in Pennsylvania. Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave, criticized Americans for failing to live up to the ideals of the Declaration and the Constitution.

  • The Left and Right were “wrong on race.” Classical liberals were the only consistent opponents of state-sponsored racial discrimination in the United States. Conservatives advocated the “state right” to discriminate in favor of native-born whites. On the left, the progressive credo might read: government was sometimes the problem but always the solution. Both groups favored the collective over the individual.

  • Classical liberals saw government as the problem, not the solution to racial discrimination. Government laws not only upheld slavery and segregation, of course, but they also restricted the right of businesses to hire racial minorities and immigrants. Left and Right opposed “open borders,” whereas classical liberals staunchly defended immigration: whether Chinese or Czech, immigrants had a “natural right” to migrate, they argued. Fearing further state-sponsored racism, classical liberals from Louis Marshall (1910s) to the NAACP (1960s) and Ward Connerly (2000s) sought to rid race entirely from government classification.

  • Religion was a dominant motive for many leaders of the antislavery movement. Frederick Douglass, an ordained minister, used references to God in rebuking—and inspiring—his fellow Christians. Lewis Tappan used his church ties to create a network of antislavery activists. Senator Joseph Hawley opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act partly because of his missionary work. Louis Marshall’s devout Judaism impelled him to fight for free immigration and against Jim Crow laws. Branch Rickey explained his recruitment of baseball legend Jackie Robinson as “a call from God.”

  • The Constitution was central to the classical liberal struggle for individual freedom. When government denied people their civil rights, classical liberals took to the courts, using arguments based on the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Justice John Marshall Harlan captured the classical liberal view of the law when, as the lone dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), he wrote, “Our Constitution is color-blind.” President Calvin Coolidge publicly rebuked a white racist who objected to a black Republican running for Congress: “Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color.”

  • Capitalism punishes racial discrimination in the marketplace. Left-wing radicals argue that capitalism is inherently racist. Classical liberals turn this view upside down: capitalism undermines racism by penalizing those who act on their “taste for discrimination.” Firms willing to recruit workers and market their goods and services without regard to color or national origin have a competitive advantage. Streetcar companies, to take but one example, fought segregated seating because it added to their cost of doing business.

Synopsis

From 1776 until well into the twentieth century, classical liberals led the struggle for racial freedom. They fought slavery, lynching, segregation, and racial distinctions in the law unwaveringly and on moral grounds. As immigration advocates, they defended the “natural right” of migration to America. Unfortunately, partly because classical liberalism does not fit under the contemporary labels of “liberal” or “conservative,” almost all books on civil rights have neglected its contributions.

Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, edited by Jonathan Bean, corrects this deficiency by assembling the first collection of writings that chronicle the classical liberal legacy of civil rights. With 100 short documents dealing with race and immigration, along with commentary to carry the story across the centuries, Race and Liberty in America recaptures a lively tradition that continues to influence debates over race and immigration.

Although classical liberals have been overlooked by almost all histories of civil rights in the United States, many of their beliefs are still widely embraced. As Jonathan Bean writes in his introduction, “Classical liberals espoused values shared by many other Americans: ‘unalienable Rights’ from God, individual freedom from government control, the Constitution as a guarantor of freedom, colorblind law, and capitalism.”

Readers looking for new insights on the civil rights movement therefore will find that the classical liberals’ response to slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, voting rights, racial preferences, and immigration restrictions was deeply rooted in the American experience.

Antislavery (1776–1854)

Chapter 1 examines the early antislavery movement. Classical liberal voices drew upon the Constitution, Christianity, and a belief in the right to self-ownership. The Declaration of Independence was a touchstone quoted and discussed by Frederick Douglass, James Forten, David Walker, and Lysander Spooner. William Leggett defended the right of a free press to criticize slavery.

Throughout this period, classical liberal Christians found themselves fighting the proslavery interpretations of Christianity advanced by southerners. Evangelical abolitionists Beriah Green and Lewis Tappan, among others, invoked the concept that “all men are . . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, [and] that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Influential British abolitionist William Wilberforce, in his antislavery campaign, appealed to Christian notions of moral dignity.

The Republican Era (1854–1876)

With the electoral success of the Republican Party, many classical liberals joined because of its opposition to slavery. Republicans, including Abraham Lincoln, declared slavery to be immoral yet confined the political issue to whether slaves ought to exist in the territories of the United States. This expediency disillusioned classical liberals, who hoped for a firmer stance against slavery. Frederick Douglass and Lysander Spooner also criticized Lincoln for not embracing emancipation at the outset of the Civil War.

Frederick Douglass summed up the political position of African Americans: “For colored men the Republican Party is the deck—all outside is the sea.” Chapter 2 concludes with documents and testimony regarding the Ku Klux Klan’s campaign of violence and intimidation against blacks for voting against the Democratic Party during Reconstruction.

Colorblindness in a Color-Conscious Era (1877–1920)

After federal troops left the South, the Democratic Party disenfranchised blacks through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests, election fraud, and voter intimidation. Southern states passed laws forcing the separation of races. White mobs repeatedly lynched blacks, thus sending a harrowing message: “Stay in your place.” Meanwhile, American shores received record numbers of immigrants from southeastern Europe and Asia. Progressives and nativist conservatives advocated immigration restriction, ultimately succeeding with the Quota Act of 1924.

Republicans and Race (1921–1932)

The Roaring Twenties were an ugly period in race relations. The Ku Klux Klan revived in new form, attacking not only blacks but also Catholics, Jews, and immigrants. By the mid1920s, the KKK had millions of members before disintegrating in the midst of scandal and counterattacks by opponents.

This was an era of paradox and pragmatism. House Republicans passed an antilynching bill, but a Democratic filibuster blocked its passage in the Senate. President Warren Harding spoke courageously against racism, but Democratic victories in Congress limited his power to do more. President Calvin Coolidge signed the Quota Act, which shut down immigration for decades to come. Yet, Coolidge challenged the KKK and other nativist forces by espousing a classical liberal philosophy of civil rights in “controversial” venues, such as Howard University, the leading historically black college. As secretary of commerce, Herbert Hoover desegregated his agency’s workforce and, as late as 1932, when Hoover ran for reelection, most black voters supported his GOP ticket.

The Roosevelt Years (1933–1945)

With southern Democrats critical to his New Deal agenda, Roosevelt remained silent on race and refused to back antilynching bills or other nondiscrimination measures. Despite FDR’s silence, most African Americans voted for the Democratic Party because it offered jobs to desperate people. However, classical liberals were far more critical of Roosevelt’s record. The documents in chapter 5 highlight their critique of state-sponsored discrimination, including Japanese internment.

Those featured in this chapter include Oscar De Priest (R-Ill.), the first black elected to Congress in the 20th century; Hamilton Fish III (R-NY), arguably one of the most important civil rights advocates in Congress from the 1920s to the 1940s; noted columnists Rose Wilder Lane and H. L. Mencken; and newspaper publisher R. C. Hoiles.

Classical Liberals in the Civil Rights Era (1946–1964)

Events moved swiftly in the postwar era. Federal courts ruled segregation unconstitutional. A Republican Senate refused to seat a notorious racist, and Congress passed voting rights laws. President Dwight D. Eisenhower played an instrumental role in the desegregation of Washington, D.C. (1953) and the Brown v. Board decision (1954). Eisenhower antagonized southern Democrats with his judicial appointments, and his use of troops to enforce a federal court order desegregating public schools. Later, as the influence of Martin Luther King, Jr., spread, President Lyndon B. Johnson moved with the times to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a bill passed by a bipartisan congressional coalition over the opposition of southern Democrats.

The struggle for racial freedom played out in sports. Branch Rickey, an anti–New Deal Republican, integrated baseball by signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey’s speech explaining why he signed Robinson is an inspiring exposition of the classical liberal creed. In another document, H.L. Mencken used his newspaper column to savage the “relics of Ku Kluxry” that prohibited blacks and whites from playing tennis together on public courts.

Individualists in an Age of Group Discrimination (1965–present)

Classical liberals confronted a dilemma with the Civil Rights Act of 1964: they accepted provisions striking down state-sponsored discrimination. However, two sections prohibited discrimination in private business. This infringed upon the freedom of association that classical liberals also valued. They also feared that these sections would allow the government to discriminate in favor of preferred minorities. To allay such fears, sponsors added explicit “colorblind” language to emphasize individual, not group rights.

The move toward “group rights” began under Democratic president Lyndon Johnson, but solidified under Republican Richard M. Nixon. The Democratic Party soon saw the political benefits of supporting preferences for Democratic constituencies (blacks, Hispanics, and others). The GOP establishment condoned race preferences and abandoned its classical liberal followers more often than not. Nevertheless, by taking their case to the public, classical liberals made the case for nondiscrimination.

A new generation of writers argued that individuals, not groups, need a “hand up,” and better they get it from civil society (family, church, professional associations) than from a government that views them as symbols of group stereotypes. This theme resonates in the writing of Stephen L. Carter, Stanley Crouch, Shelby Steele, Clarence Thomas, Ben Wattenberg, and others.

Conclusion: Past, Present, Future

In the Age of Obama, what is the outlook for classical liberal policies on race and immigration? The final chapter suggests that this question is not easily answered.

On the one hand, the major political parties have shied away from an individualistic stance on race: whereas the Democrats have embraced racial preferences in the name of “diversity,” the Republicans seem embarrassed by questions of race and wish they would go away. Except for waves of nativist concern over immigration, however, Congress has been reluctant to address racial controversies. The U.S. Supreme Court has furthered muddled the direction of civil rights jurisprudence by splitting sharply in the 2003 landmark cases, Grutter and Gratz.

On the other hand, racial intermarriage and immigration may reduce calls for group-based discrimination. Moreover, the possibility of a revival of the individualistic ethos cannot be dismissed. As the men and women whose words comprise this book have shown, classical liberals have overcome greater obstacles than those they currently face.

Praise

“If you are interested in the real history of the Civil Rights movement in America—the radical ideas that set it in motion no matter where they came from—get ready for an intellectual thrill ride. There is no time for political posturing here. Race and Liberty in America is full of revelations and stunning in its honesty.”
Juan Williams, Senior Correspondent, National Public Radio; author, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954–1965 and Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary

Race and Liberty in America is the race and civil rights anthology we have been waiting for. In our politicized age we often think of civil rights as a movement of racial pride and identity. But Martin Luther King’s movement succeeded precisely because it used the principles of classical liberalism to shatter the idea that race or identity could be a source of entitlement. Black freedom did not come from an embrace of race; it came from the classic principles and values that finally prevailed over race. This book is a timely and necessary corrective.”
Shelby Steele, Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; author, The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era and A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America

“Readers will find a wealth of information in Jonathan Bean’s outstanding book, Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, a collection of primary source materials covering the great historical debates over race and ethnicity in America. Students, educators, civic leaders, and general readers can all greatly benefit from the book, drawing their own conclusions about the content, motivations, and intentions of leaders who have helped shape national policy.”
Carol M. Swain, Director, Public Policy Studies and Professor of Political Science and Law, Vanderbilt University; author, Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress

“Jonathan Bean’s book Race and Liberty in America is indeed essential reading. All too often classical liberals are attacked for their indifference or insensitivity on matters of race. This superb collection of material dispels that illusion. From the beginning of the Republic to the present day a policy of limited government and freedom of association holds the keys to racial harmony and the advancement of all Americans, regardless of their race or color.”
Richard A. Epstein, James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago

Race and Liberty in America is a history buff’s dream. Jonathan Bean has carefully and judiciously chosen the most significant speeches, documents, and journalistic works pertaining to the government’s treatment of blacks from slavery to modern times. Here you can find wonderfully articulate pleas for equal treatment before the law and diabolic appeals to reject that. Throughout this book one sees the hard fought battles against a government unwilling to respect the natural law, incapable of acknowledging any limits on its power, and utterly contemptuous of the values that brought freedom and prosperity to a few. If you want a real feel for the civil rights battles your teachers and professors never taught you about, here it is.”
Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, Senior Judicial Analyst, Fox News Channel; author, Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America

“This is a wonderful collection of fascinating documents about the black experience in America, many of them little-known, with judicious introductory material by Jonathan Bean. Puncturing the conventional wisdom that portrays the long and painful struggle for black freedom as the product of ‘progressive’ government controls, the book demonstrates convincingly that such figures as Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Robert Taft were among the most enlightened. Race and Liberty in America deserves a wide audience, and will enrich the reader's understanding of the nation's most difficult and troubling domestic issue.”
Stephan Thernstrom, Winthrop Research Professor of History, Harvard University; co-author, America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible

“Jonathan Bean forces the open-minded reader to think in new ways about the relationship between liberty and equality in the American experience with his shrewd selections of seminal documents and astute explanations of the same. Race and Liberty in America represents a powerful tool for understanding that government in the United States has often been the agent of oppression, something that has too often been forgotten in the last generation or so. Bean unashamedly lets the evidence speak for itself that the freedom of the individual has most often flourished when governments have been bridled and too often stifled when they interfered.”
Robert J. Norrell, Bernadotte Schmitt Chair of Excellence and Professor of History, University of Tennessee; author of Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington

Race and Liberty in America is indispensable—perhaps the best collection of source documents on the subject ever gathered. Best of all, this terrific book dispels any notion that civil rights are synonymous with racial preferences or that immigration restriction promotes liberty.”
Linda L. Chavez, former Staff Director, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Chairman, Center for Equal Opportunity; author, Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation

“After reading Race and Liberty in America, my reaction was WOW!! But, in case a one-word reaction is insufficient, I hasten to add that this fantastic book is destined to become America's new textbook about ‘race,’ civil rights and what it means to be a classical liberal on the subject of race. Americans are deeply divided about whether to enable their government to pursue ‘diversity’ or to embrace ‘colorblind’ public policies. This debate is not well-served by the polarizing influence of political labels that divide ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals.’ Perhaps, if more of the latter realized that colorblind government is a fundamental component of their political DNA and if more of the former understood the inherent connection between liberty and colorblindness, a resolution of this conflict might be achieved.”
Ward Connerly, Chairman, American Civil Rights Institute; author, Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences

Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader is destined to become a standard source on the American classical liberal anti-racist tradition. In this magisterial anthology, Jonathan Bean mines a rich vein of sources. Many have never appeared before in book form. The selections cover such diverse topics as the fight for abolitionism and the allied struggles against Chinese exclusion, Jim Crow and Japanese internment. Bean introduces modern readers to such forgotten anti-racist crusaders as entrepreneur Lewis Tappan, who was the essential financial angel of abolitionism, NAACP super-lawyer Moorefield Storey, frontier novelist Rose Wilder Lane, and black Republican congressman Oscar DePriest. The selections also contain surprising new information about such better known individuals as Frederick Douglass, Warren G. Harding, Milton Friedman, and Zora Neale Hurston.”
David T. Beito, Professor of History, University of Alabama; author of Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power

“We are one human race, in need of a savior and as my uncle Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘we must learn to live together as brothers or perish as fools.’ Life, liberty and justice are matters of the heart and go beyond politics and legislation. The essential book, Race and Liberty in America, is a major step in the process.”
Alveda C. King, Founder and Chairman, King for America; daughter of civil rights leader Rev. A. D. Williams King, brother of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Historian Jonathan Bean has provided a signal service by bringing to light the rich tradition of classical liberal thinking about civil rights. The world of ideas has been waiting for a book such as Race and Liberty in America for far too long, but Bean's collection of primary sources and thematic commentary has made it worth the wait. The book deserves a prominent place on the bookshelves of all open-minded scholars and should be required reading in classrooms across the nation. This is a transformative book by a courageous scholar.”
Scott Douglas Gerber, Ella & Ernest Fisher Chair in Law, Ohio Northern University; author, First Principles: The Jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas

“How will the issues of Race and Immigration impact America in the future? Short of studying statistics and census reports, a new book Race and Liberty in America edited by Jonathan Bean offers a ‘classical liberal’ description of the past, present and future impact of race and immigration in America’s future. It’s a challenging book of ideas offering a balanced discussion on these two issues.”
Lee H. Walker, President, New Coalition for Economic and Social Change

Race and Liberty in America is an original and much-needed anthology, indispensable for any serious discussion of race relations in American history. The first-rate introductions and selections provide a fabulous resource for both teachers and students. Genuinely inspired.”
Paul Moreno, William and Berniece Grewcock Chair in Constitutional History, Hillsdale College

“Presented as an alternative to “Left and Right debates on television or the Left on Left offerings in the classroom,” this volume offers the first collection of primary source materials on race and civil rights from the classical liberal perspective. Classical liberals believe in individual freedom, Christianity, the Constitution, colorblindness, and capitalism. Since classical liberals perceive that governmental controls promote racial oppression more than they prevent it, Bean’s anthology focuses on political and legal discussions. Bean carefully selects and comments on over 100 resources from 1776 to 2007 that support his interpretations of civil rights, e.g., that there is only one race (human), and that individual equality exists regardless of race. He celebrates the end of slavery, anti-immigration laws, and race-based quotas, and rejects the legitimacy of racial pride, diversity, and affirmative action.”
Choice

“[F]rom the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who championed the natural rights philosophy of the Declaration of Independence and declared ‘give the negro fair play and let him alone,’ to the conservative newspaper magnate R.C. Hoiles (publisher of what is now the Orange County Register), who denounced liberal President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's wartime internment of Japanese Americans while most New Dealers (and liberal Supreme Court justices) remained silent, classical liberals have long opposed racism and collectivism in all of its vile forms. This important yet sadly-neglected history is the subject of Race and Liberty in America (University Press of Kentucky), a superb new anthology edited by Southern Illinois University historian Jonathan Bean, which features carefully selected articles, speeches, book excerpts, newspaper accounts, legal decisions, interviews, and other materials revealing, in Bean's words, that ‘classical liberals are the invisible men and women of the long civil rights movement.’ . . . As Bean demonstrates, when it comes to the history of civil rights and racial equality, most of us have only heard one part of the story. . . . Taken together, the documents collected in this volume present overwhelming evidence that classical liberalism deserves serious attention in any account of the American struggle for civil rights and a colorblind society. Rather than serving as the villains caricatured by Malcolm X, Manning Marable, and others on the left, classical liberals provided essential intellectual, political, moral, and financial firepower in the battles against slavery, Jim Crow, imperialism, and racial classifications. With Race and Liberty in America, these largely unsung heroes are finally getting some of their due."
Reason.com

“While outposts of prejudice and hostility certainly remain, the mainstream no longer tolerates the overt bigotry of the past. America has a long written history of this change of heart. Race and Liberty in America (Jonathan J. Bean, editor; The Independent Institute and the University Press of Kentucky) . . . memorialize the words of those brave souls who took the first steps on the journey towards the sunlit path Americans now walk. Bean and the Independent Institute perform a generous service by compiling a treasure trove of historical trove of historical documents that create a comprehensive account of the progression of race relations in American history. . . . With its wide collection of writings on race and immigration, Race and Liberty in America neatly sidesteps left-right characterization and permits the pure ideas of those who endeavored to focus the debate on our common origins, dignity and destiny to shine through. It does not seek to proselytize to the reader. Instead, it provides an insight into the intellectual foundation of civil rights traditions firmly rooted in American principles: individual freedom, equality before the law and fidelity to the Constitution. . . . Race and Liberty is insightful, thought-provoking and just what is needed to freshen up the stale, bi-polar attitude toward questions of race that stifles contemporary political discussion in both the classroom and the newsroom.”
Birmingham Times

“Jonathan Bean's Race and Liberty in America (University Press of Kentucky and The Independent Institute, 2009) points out that ‘academic booklists reflect the politically correct view that left-wing liberals or radicals completely dominated the struggle for racial freedom.’ Bean's excellent book shows that many African-American leaders in the 19th and 20th centuries had a different emphasis. Those leaders prized individual rights, Christianity, and markets where the only color is the green of greenbacks. Those leaders knew that government power enforced racist codes and segregation.”
World Magazine

“Jonathan Bean, a research fellow at the Independent Institute, teaches at Southern Illinois University. He has compiled Race and Liberty in America using numerous sources. He discusses the origins and development of the racial conflict burdening America. His work includes references to rare documents showing the destruction and loss of respect for the law through political correctness. He is concerned that responsible individualism has given way to group rationalization, justifying the current lack of discipline and work ethic. . . . The editor compels the reader to think about our society's evolution as he provides the materials necessary to consider its direction. This volume is well worth reading.”
Salisbury Post

" . . . accessible writing, combined with clear thinking that defies the common wisdom on some controversial subjects and makes them highly readable for study or pleasure."
Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

“In this edited volume, Jonathan Bean, a professor of history at Southern Illinois University, introduces the classical liberal perspective on race and civil rights in American society. This perspective, he argues, rests on principles that transcend racial affiliations, namely, individualism, equal justice under law, a colorblind Constitution, the Golden Rule of Christianity, limited government, and free-market economics. These principles, Bean asserts, inspired the earliest efforts to end slavery, Jim Crow laws, and other forms of discrimination, including the dispossession of Native Americans, restrictions against immigrants from Asia and Southern and Eastern Europe, and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. In making this assertion, Bean aims to amend what he believes is a distortion of the historical record. “Politically correct” scholars, he maintains, have created the popular yet inaccurate impression that the civil rights movement in the United States originated in modern liberalism, a perspective which, he suggests, promotes group rights at the expense of individual freedom and encourages the redistribution of resources by an activist government. . . . Bean’s volume has a number of potential uses. It could be a supplemental textbook or reader in upper level courses on such subjects as political science, public policy, political economy, and the history of political and social thought. It could, furthermore, be a reference book for students and scholars who wish to undertake an in-depth study of the classical liberal perspective and its proponents. In this regard, the volume’s frequent citations to sources on the Constitution and to famous Supreme Court cases would make it especially useful to those law students or pre-law students who wish to understand how classical liberalism has influenced judicial decision-making and case law in the U.S. . . . Bean has made a Herculean attempt to assemble an extensive collection of materials and to provide thoughtful commentary upon them. His efforts to set the record straight will be appreciated by those classical liberals who are seeking to ground their position in the history of the nation’s struggles for civil rights. His efforts will also be appreciated by those students and scholars who are looking for a reference book on the history of classical liberal thought as it relates to race and civil rights.
Social Science Journal

Race and Liberty in America is an anthology edited by Jonathan Bean, a professor of history at Southern Illinois University. It includes dozens of selections, from 1776 to today, arguing eloquently for colorblind equality before the law and against slavery, Jim Crow, and racial preferences (affirmative action). Fittingly, Bean also includes much from the immigration context. . . . Bean balances readable and relatively short excerpts with intelligent commentary in the introductions. The big message of the book is that many of our great thinkers shared the vision that equality and progress will result from freedom, not the heavy and coercive hand of the State. . . . [T]he cost-conscious libertarian (is there any other kind?) should purchase Bean’s book . . . [Andrew] Napolitano himself—as well as Shelby Steele, Richard Epstein, Linda Chavez, Stephan Thernstrom, and Ward Connerly, among many others—favorably blurbs Bean’s book, calling it ‘a history buff’s dream,’ and he’s right.”
The Freeman

“This book is offered as ‘the first collection of writings on race and immigration to document the role of the classical liberal tradition’. Professor Bean defines classical liberalism as endorsing individual freedom, Christianity, the Constitution, colorblindedness, and capitalism. . . . Bean distinguished classical liberalism from left-wing liberalism, which he notes was secular and stressed group rights, government power, and hostility to capitalism. He argues that in America, classical liberalism was the main intellectual force opposing racism; anti-Semitic, anti-Asian, anti-immigration policies, and affirmative action; or, on the other side of this coin, the main intellectual force defending the rights of the individual against all forms of collectivism. . . . [T]his book has many excellent passages upholding reason, individualism, individual rights, and the Constitution (including the Declaration). For this reason, Bean’s book is well worth reading.”
Human Resource Management

“Jonathan Bean has put together a phenomenal work with Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader. For me, an African-American who interned with my church's religious liberty department while I was studying law, the book proved to be an amazing read, and I highly recommend it. I would state unequivocally that it would be an informative read for anyone, regardless of their own personal views of the U.S. civil rights movement—a complex history with complex past and present implementation and maintenance processes. What makes Race and Liberty in America an unrivaled piece is that it duly surpasses all the expectations of what one might consider finding within a pronounced 'essential reader.' Jonathan Bean's edited work is a refreshing anthology of every type of major civil rights debate and struggle that has ever occurred within the United States: antislavery, constitutionalism, the right of free markets, and the debates on immigration that consumed the public political discourse in the 1850s and 1970s. All these subtopics are brilliantly aligned in a mosaic of documents, presidential orders, judicial rulings, legal briefs, and speeches. Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, within title and substance, is neither hyperbole nor bombast, but emerges as an absolute treasure trove of some of the finest documents on U.S. civil rights ever collected and bound together. The raw power of this book emanates completely from the simplicity of its presentation: the use of primary sources alone to speak to the reader and to convey Bean's message: that the classical liberal tradition was the only tradition in the social, political, and economic spheres of the United States to consistently make a difference in the obtaining, realization, and maintenance of an individual's basic civil rights in the United States. . . . Bean has truly compiled a wonderful selection of sources exemplifying the best debates and arguments concerning the U.S. tradition of being a free and welcoming land, available to those who wish for a fair right to live as an individual citizen without the anchor of caste or color. Race and Liberty in America is a book that duly meets the previous superlatives of renowned civil rights academic, literary, and political experts such as Shelby Steele and Carol M. Swain. . . . This is truly an anthology that can already be considered as irreplaceable and, at present, is readily finding itself as textbook and private study in the hands of academics and private interested readers alike.”
Liberty

About the Author

Jonathan Bean is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Professor of History at Southern Illinois University. He received his Ph.D. from the Ohio State University in 1994 and he has taught at Juniata College and St. Michael’s College. Professor Bean is the recipient of the Henry Adams Prize for Best Book of the Year from the Society for History in the Federal Government and Herman E. Krooss Prize from the Business History Conference. He is a member of the Academic Hall of Fame at St. Michael’s College.

Of Related Interest

The Diversity Myth
The Diversity Myth
Liberty for Women
Liberty for Women
Freedom, Feminism, and the State
Freedom, Feminism, and the State
Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus
Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus
Drug War Crimes
Drug War Crimes
Neither Liberty nor Safety
Neither Liberty nor Safety
Recarving Rushmore
Recarving Rushmore


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