Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America

Mumford, Kevin. Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America. NYU Press, 2008.

Started during his time teaching at Rutgers-Newark in 1998, Kevin Mumford (now professor at the University of Illinois) has written the most extensive deep dive into 20th century Newark’s political history available. It really is a remarkable look at how individual personalities responded to the city’s major post-World War 2 economic and social transitions. Rather than relying on the oversimplified narrative of “Newark since the riots,” Mumford explores the nuances of Black politics by contrasting the civil rights oriented views of Irvine Turner and Kenneth Gibson to Black Power’s Amiri Baraka. Of particular interest is Chapter 8, “Baraka v. Imperiale,” which gives an extremely detailed and fascinating account of the fight over the original Kawaida Towers project in the North Ward. Although times (and the city’s demographics) have changed, Newark remains both timely and useful for putting Mayor Ras Baraka’s ongoing mission of bringing Kawaida Towers to fruition downtown and Elizabeth Del Tufo’s public public objections to the overhaul of Harriet Tubman Square into historical context. As William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

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