"Remarkably few historians have probed the local impact of the War on Poverty. While there are many grim twists and unfulfilled hopes in New Orleans After the Promises, Germany shows that the Great Society lived on into the 1970s in New Orleans, and that federal social programs helped to destroy white supremacy. Historians who unthinkingly adopt the concept of a civil rights ‘crisis of victory’, and who assume that the War on Poverty was nothing more than tokenism, must read this important and highly original book."
—Gareth Davies, University of Oxford
"Meticulously researched . . . This balanced case study raises new questions about the outcome of the War on Poverty and the persistence of racial inequity in the twenty-first century. . . . This is a fine study that anyone concerned with racial justice in America should read."
"This is a major contribution to the historiography of civil rights and postwar urban history. Well researched and provocative . . . Dense, nuanced, and at times overwhelmingly detailed, this fresh and invigorating study's scope, range, and ambition are too wide for a short review, but the book will reward the patient reader and deserves the widest possible audience."
—American Historical Review
"Deserves to be considered among the foremost urban studies of post-1945 U.S. political and social history . . . Densely packed with intricate details . . . New Orleans After the Promises stands in the vanguard of scholarly attention to the mechanisms through which the Great Society operated."
—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"Every idealistic college graduate heading to the post-Katrina city to gut houses or teach children should read [Germany's] book. . . . The depth of his research and facility with archival resources . . . is quite remarkable. . . . Leaves the reader wishing to follow the story further."
—Reviews in American History
In the 1960s and 1970s, New Orleans experienced one of the greatest transformations in its history. Its people replaced Jim Crow, fought a War on Poverty, and emerged with glittering skyscrapers, professional football, and a building so large it had to be called the Superdome. New Orleans after the Promises looks back at that era to explore how a few thousand locals tried to bring the Great Society to Dixie. With faith in God and American progress, they believed that they could conquer poverty, confront racism, establish civic order, and expand the economy. At a time when liberalism seemed to be on the wane nationally, black and white citizens in New Orleans cautiously partnered with each other and with the federal government to expand liberalism in the South.
As Kent Germany examines how the civil rights, antipoverty, and therapeutic initiatives of the Great Society dovetailed with the struggles of black New Orleanians for full citizenship, he defines an emerging public/private governing apparatus that he calls the "Soft State": a delicate arrangement involving constituencies as varied as old-money civic leaders and Black Power proponents who came together to sort out the meanings of such new federal programs as Community Action, Head Start, and Model Cities. While those diverse groups struggled—violently on occasion—to influence the process of racial inclusion and the direction of economic growth, they dramatically transformed public life in one of America's oldest cities. While many wonder now what kind of city will emerge after Katrina, New Orleans after the Promises offers a detailed portrait of the complex city that developed after its last epic reconstruction.
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