A technicolor history of the first civil rights movement and its collapse into black and white.

In The Accident of Color, Daniel Brook journeys to nineteenth-century New Orleans and Charleston and introduces us to cosmopolitan residents who elude the racial categories the rest of America takes for granted.

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During Reconstruction, a movement arises as mixed-race elites make common cause with the formerly enslaved and allies at the fringes of whiteness in a bid to achieve political and social equality for all.

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Activists peacefully integrate the streetcars of Charleston and New Orleans for decades and, for a time, even the New Orleans public schools and the University of South Carolina are educating students of all backgrounds side by side.

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Tragically, the achievements of this movement are swept away by a violent political backlash and expunged from the history books, culminating in the Jim Crow laws that legalize segregation for a half century and usher in the binary racial regime that rules us to this day.

Ransier Roudanez

Praise for The Accident of Color

"[A] poignant and powerful book.... Brook takes readers deep inside a world of shadows in 19th-century Charleston, SC and New Orleans."
Library Journal
“[A] valuable history [that] goes a long way to injecting thoughtfulness into popular notions of the history of race and racism in America.”
NPR.org
"[F]ast-paced and intriguing, revelatory and provocative. Drawing deeply on archival materials, Brook....concludes that...American history is Creole history."
BookPage
"A well-researched, fresh, and sometimes funny social history"
Booklist
"[A] fascinating history."
LitHub
"[A] clear-eyed, provocative, and remarkably readable book."
HottyToddy.com
"Poignant [and] persuasive"
Florida Courier