UPDATED AND REVISED EDITION
THE LITTLE-KNOWN STORY OF POOR AND WORKING-CLASS WHITES, URBAN ETHNIC GROUPS AND BLACK PANTHERS ORGANIZING SIDE BY SIDE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE IN THE 1960S AND ’70S
Some of the most important and little-known activists of the 1960s were poor and working-class radicals. Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, the Black Panthers, and progressive populism, they started to organize significant political struggles against racism and inequality during the 1960s and into the 1970s.
Historians of the period have traditionally emphasized the work of white college activists who courageously took to the streets to protest the war in Vietnam and continuing racial inequality. Poor and working-class whites have often been painted as spectators, reactionaries, and, even, racists. But authors James Tracy and Amy Sonnie disprove that narrative.
Through over ten years of research, interviewing activists along with unprecedented access to their personal archives, Tracy and Sonnie tell a crucial, untold story of the New Left. Their deeply sourced narrative history shows how poor and working-class individuals from diverse ethnic, rural and urban backgrounds cooperated and drew strength from one another. The groups they founded redefined community organizing, and transformed the lives and communities they touched.
Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power is an important contribution to our understanding of a pivotal moment in U.S. history.
Among the groups in the book:
+ JOIN Community Union brought together southern migrants, student radicals, and welfare recipients in Chicago to fight for housing, health, and welfare . . .
+ The Young Patriots Organization and Rising Up Angry organized self-identified hillbillies, Chicago greasers, Vietnam vets, and young feminists into a legendary “Rainbow Coalition” with Black and Puerto Rican activists . . .
+ In Philadelphia, the October 4th Organization united residents of industrial Kensington against big business, war, and a repressive police force . . .
+ In the Bronx, White Lightning occupied hospitals and built coalitions with doctors to fight for the rights of drug addicts and the poor.
”This is movement writing at its best — an accessible, critical, and compelling account of an exceptional organizing coalition that continues to fire radical imaginations today.” — Elizabeth Catte, author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia
“Given the invisibility of this history, this book couldn’t be more timely and more necessary.” —Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Blood on the Border
”People who care about social justice, who care about the future, must learn this history. Our conditions dictate that we don’t have the luxury to walk separately anymore.” —Malik Rahim, New Orleans Black Panther Party
“Hillbilly Nationalists recovers the voices of white, working-class radicals who prove abolitionist John Brown’s legacy is alive and well. Over ten years, Sonnie and Tracy have collected rare documents and conducted interviews to fill a long-missing piece of social movement history. Focusing on the 1960s–70s and touching on issues just as relevant today, these authors challenge the Left not to ignore white America, while challenging white America to recognize its allegiance to humanity and justice, rather than the bankrupt promises of conservative politicians.” —Angela Y. Davis, author of Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prison, Torture, and Empire
“This book is, without question, the definitive resource for scholars, students, and activists interested in some of the most innovative and understudied coalitional politics of the New Left.” —Darrel Enck-Wanzer, editor of The Young Lords: A Reader
“In our world, ‘white, working-class anti-racism’ is considered an oxymoron, or at best a pipe dream. Amy Sonnie and James Tracy prove these assumptions wrong, excavating a forgotten history of poor white folks who, in alliance with black nationalists, built a truly radical movement for social justice, economic power, and racial and gender equality. They have written a beautiful, powerful, surprising account of class-based interracial organizing; I expect Hillbilly Nationalists to inspire a new generation of activists who understand that a true rainbow coalition is not only desirable but our only hope.” —Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination and Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
“Sonnie and Tracy are master storytellers whose stories of working-class, interracial solidarity chart a new direction in the history of the modern freedom movement. Based on dozens of oral histories and previously untapped personal records of movement activists, this book offers an inspiring and largely invisible history of poor and working-class whites who built a ‘vanguard of the dispossessed’ with Black Panthers, Young Lords, and others in the radical movement for racial and economic justice. Written with nuance and power, this is a major contribution to the study of civil rights, social justice, working-class communities, and the politics of whiteness in the United States.” —Jennifer Guglielmo, author of Living the Revolution and Are Italians White?
“Hillbilly Nationalists is the story of reformers and revolutionaries, dreamers and doers, who remind us of a transformative organizing tradition among white, working-class communities. Inspired by Black Power and global events, these organizers did what only poor folks can do: they pooled their resources to build a vibrant social movement that escapes easy classification. Sonnie and Tracy combine first-rate historical research and extensive oral histories to capture the legacies of those unsung heroes and heroines who battled for the hearts and minds of working-class Americans in the 1960s and 1970s.” —Dan Berger, editor of The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism