Reluctant Reformers explores the centrality of racism to
American politics through the origins, internal dynamics, and
leadership of the major democratic and social justice movements
between the early nineteenth century and the end of World War II. It
focuses in particular on the abolitionists, the Populist Party, the
Progressive reformers, and the women’s suffrage, labor, and
socialist and communist movements.
their achievements, virtually all these predominantly white movements
failed to oppose, capitulated to, or even advocated racism at
critical junctures in their history, with their efforts undercut by
their inability to build and sustain a mass movement of both Black
and white Americans.
Reformers examines both the structural roots of racism in US
radical movements and the impact of racist ideologies on the
white-dominated core of each movement, how some whites resisted these
pressures, and how Black people engaged with these movements. This
edition includes a postscript describing the Black freedom movement
of the 1960s and the central role it has played in the development of
today’s radical social justice movements.