Insurrection: Rebellion, Civil Rights, and the Paradoxical State of Black Citizenship

Norton. Jan. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9781324003038. $26.95. HIST
In her first book, lawyer and cultural critic Allan (lecturer, the New School; editor of The Offing magazine) offers a meditative history of the U.S. Insurrection Act of 1807, which she argues was born out of white fears of enslaved people rising up to massacre their captors. The Insurrection Act places federal troops at the disposal of state governments to quell civil disturbances and reestablish order. According to Allan, what was often called an “insurrection” represented a continuous and often bloody battle to fully incorporate Black Americans into the citizenry of the United States. The paradox in the title is that presidents have invoked the Insurrection Act in ways that help and hurt Black people. Dwight Eisenhower forcibly desegregated Southern schools and universities while Lyndon B. Johnson and others used the ct to end civil disturbances in the wake of police violence and after natural disasters which overwhelmingly affected Black people. Throughout, Allan’s personal reflections and experiences add a depth and immediacy to the narrative that highlights the continued struggles of Black Americans to obtain and enjoy the rights of full citizenship many take for granted.
VERDICT Allan’s prose seamlessly draws the personal and historical together in a book that general readers of U.S. history will find interesting and thought-provoking.
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