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

Raymond A. Mohl
Foreword by Stanley Harrold and Randall M. Miller, Series Editors

Details: 280 pages    6 x 9
Cloth: $39.95   ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-2693-0   
Paper: $24.95   ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-2922-1   
Pubdate: 12/31/2003
Series: Southern Dissent
Review(s): 7 available
Sample Chapter(s):
Table of Contents
Introduction


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Overview

"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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