Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State



FORMAT: Paperback
ISBN: 9781107697973

Did the civil rights movement impact the development of the American state? Despite extensive accounts of civil rights mobilization and narratives of state-building, there has been surprisingly little research within the field of American Politics that has explicitly examined the importance and consequence that civil rights activism has had for the process of state-building in American political and constitutional development. Through a sweeping archival analysis of the NAACP’s battle against lynching and mob violence from 1909-1923, this book examines how the NAACP raised public awareness, won over American presidents, and secured the support of Congress. Finally, in the NAACP’s most far-reaching victory, the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional rights of black defendants were violated by a white mob in the landmark criminal procedure decision Moore v. Dempsey. Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State hopes to contribute to a greater understanding of the “rights revolution” that would take place later in the century. The project challenges contemporary understandings and presents a re-evaluation of the criminal procedure revolution and the struggle for African American citizenship. By examining how a marginalized group was able to use the opportunities in the American political system to secure rights in the early part of the 20th century, this project demonstrates the importance of citizen agency in the making of new constitutional law and state development in a period unexplored by previous scholarship.

  • The first ever analysis of the NAACP’s campaign against racist violence
  • Useful in understanding the litigation apparatus that led to Brown v. Board of Education
  • Emphasizes a longer time frame to understand the development of civil rights
  • Winner, 2015 W. E. B. DuBois Distinguished Book Award, National Conference of Black Political Scientists

Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State is an outstanding contribution to the fields of race and politics, American political development, and legal studies. Drawing on rich archival sources, Francis redefines our understanding of the early Civil Rights Movement, the NAACP, and its relationship to the American presidency and Congress. Her research forces us to revise our understanding of the complicated relationships between early twentieth-century presidents and the black movement for racial justice. This work also sharply highlights how social movement organizations tack back and forth between multiple strategies to achieve their goals. Students of American politics, history, legal studies, race and politics, and social movements will all find this a must-read.

Michael C. DawsonJohn D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the College and Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, University of Chicago

Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State is a singular achievement in the field of American Political Development. Francis forces us to reconsider the established narrative of how change occurs in America by drawing our attention to the collective, organized work of African Americans resisting the oppression of Jim Crow injustice. This book plumbs the depths of previously understudied archives and offers a beautifully written, rich, historical narrative. Francis tells a new story about the NAACP, the Supreme Court, and ultimately about our nation. Forget everything you think you know about how change happens.

Melissa Harris-Perry Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University, Host of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry

With the publication of this important and original book, Megan Ming Francis establishes herself as an outstanding young scholar of race inequality and the national state. In it, Francis documents the way in which the NAACP came to formulate a litigation strategy to address lynching atrocities, having tried unsuccessfully to mobilize the White House and Congress in this cause. Francis’s findings deepen our knowledge of both the civil rights movement and the American state. The book will be influential and should be essential reading for scholars of American politics, history, sociology, and African American studies.

Desmond KingAndrew Mellon Professor of American Government and Professorial Fellow, Nuffield College, University of Oxford

“In this original, incisive, and empirically convincing book, Megan Ming Francis documents how the NAACP’s manifold political challenges to racial violence in the early twentieth century contributed to the development of the modern American constitutional state. Along the way, Francis illustrates why historical institutional analysts should grant greater attention to the important roles of organized citizen groups in shaping civil rights law and national legal authority. The book is a brilliant and important achievement.”

Michael McCannGordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship, University of Washington