New Negro Politics in the Jim Crow South

Claudrena N. Harold

The South as an important source and developer of black activism during the 1920s and 1930s


"This book unquestionably adds to our broader sense of the New Negro Movement, taking it beyond the comfortable borders of the urban North into the messier field of operation in the South. This history is highly readable and should be read by contemporary activists and organizers doing their work in the South. New Negro Politics in the Jim Crow South fleshes out the legacy of broad and dynamic fronts against racism and worker exploitation in what is often dismissed as the nation’s retrograde region.”
—J.T. Roane, Black Perspectives (African American Intellectual History Society blog)

“Ultimately, Harold’s text necessarily expands our understandings of the New Negro era and black southerners, who a generation later became the architects of the civil rights movement.”
—Marcia Walker- McWilliams, The Journal of Southern History

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This study details how the development and maturation of New Negro politics and thought were shaped not only by New York–based intellectuals and revolutionary transformations in Europe, but also by people, ideas, and organizations rooted in the South. Claudrena N. Harold probes into critical events and developments below the Mason-Dixon Line, sharpening our understanding of how many black activists—along with particular segments of the white American Left—arrived at their views on the politics of race, nationhood, and the capitalist political economy.

Focusing on Garveyites, A. Philip Randolph’s militant unionists, and black antiimperialist protest groups, among others, Harold argues that the South was a largely overlooked “incubator of black protest activity” between World War I and the Great Depression. The activity she uncovers had implications beyond the region and adds complexity to a historical moment in which black southerners provided exciting organizational models of grassroots labor activism, assisted in the revitalization of black nationalist politics, engaged in robust intellectual arguments on the future of the South, and challenged the governance of historically black colleges.

To uplift the race and by extension transform the world, New Negro southerners risked social isolation, ridicule, and even death. Their stories are reminders that black southerners played a crucial role not only in African Americans’ revolutionary quest for political empowerment, ontological clarity, and existential freedom but also in the global struggle to bring forth a more just and democratic world free from racial subjugation, dehumanizing labor practices, and colonial oppression.

Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication

Page count: 208 pp.
Trim size: 6 X 9


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Claudrena N. Harold is an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia. She is the author of The Rise and Fall of the Garvey Movement in the Urban South, 1918–1942 and coeditor, with Deborah E. McDowell and Juan Battle, of The Punitive Turn: New Approaches to Race and Incarceration.