Why the Vote Wasn’t Enough for Selma

Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: 30 illustrations Published: October 2017

Author: Karlyn Forner

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, History > U.S. History

In Why the Vote Wasn't Enough for Selma Karlyn Forner rewrites the heralded story of Selma to explain why gaining the right to vote did not bring about economic justice for African Americans in the Alabama Black Belt. Drawing on a rich array of sources, Forner illustrates how voting rights failed to offset decades of systematic disfranchisement and unequal investment in African American communities. Forner contextualizes Selma as a place, not a moment within the civil rights movement —a place where black citizens' fight for full citizenship unfolded alongside an agricultural shift from cotton farming to cattle raising, the implementation of federal divestment policies, and economic globalization. At the end of the twentieth century, Selma's celebrated political legacy looked worlds apart from the dismal economic realities of the region. Forner demonstrates that voting rights are only part of the story in the black freedom struggle and that economic justice is central to achieving full citizenship.


"Though the general contours of this story are well known, Forner presents an exhaustive social, political, and economic history of Selma set within local and national context. A near page-turner that will appeal to both general and scholarly readers interested in the civil rights movement." — William D. Pederson, Library Journal

"Forner argues convincingly that, for many black residents, 'Selma did more for civil rights than civil rights did for Selma.' This lucid, detailed book is often dispiriting to read, but it’s an important reminder of the still-unfulfilled promise of the black freedom movement." (Starred Review) — Publishers Weekly

"This vision of Alabama history is depressing, even tragic, but it can help to reinvigorate our thinking about racial justice in the future. Forner persuasively demonstrates that the economic plight of many black Americans is the direct result of years of racist policies, global labor changes, and a federal government refusing to protect its citizens. Her book reminds us that anything less than a total and complete commitment from the federal government to end institutionalized racism simply leaves in place some problems of the past and enables new and different forms of dispossession to take root." — Elias Rodriques, The Nation

"Elegantly written, Karlyn Forner's community study offers college instructors an excellent option for undergraduate courses...[and] highlights the strengths of integrating social, economic, and political history around a single community." — William D. Goldsmith, Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians

“Karlyn Forner’s valuable and informative Why the Vote Wasn’t Enough for Selma provides with great depth much-needed context for a struggle that is too often reduced to a 1965 protest march, and raises with great relevance for today the often-avoided issue of the undone work necessary to secure meaningful change. This is much more than a book about Alabama's civil rights struggle. Read it and learn.” — Charles E. Cobb Jr., author of This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible

"Although scholars have explored questions of voting rights and economic justice for black residents of Selma, Karlyn Forner's study provides new details and fresh insights into the evolution, impact, and legacy of the fight for voting rights. Sure to appeal to a wide audience, Why the Vote Wasn’t Enough for Selma is truly exceptional in terms of its breadth, depth, vision, and scope." — Hasan Kwame Jeffries, author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt

"With sheer ambition and narrative deftness, Karlyn Forner sets a new standard for deeper explorations of U.S. history. By plumbing Selma’s past—not over the customary two months in 1965, but over more than a century—Forner gives us a 'civil rights movement' that is longer and broader than we ever knew. Deeply researched, brilliantly framed, and fearlessly candid, this is that rare history that also speaks loudly in the present tense.” — Timothy B. Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Karlyn Forner is Project Manager of the SNCC Digital Gateway at Duke University Libraries.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations  vii
Abbreviations   ix
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction  1
Interlude. The Constitution of 1901  6
1. The World That Cotton Made: 1901–1916  11
Interlude. World War I and Making the World Safe for Democracy  34
2. "Our Country First, Then Selma": 1917–1929  39
Interlude. The Great Depression  61
3. Plowing Under: 1932–1940  67
Interlude. Craig Air Force Base  91
4. Becoming White-Faced Cows: 1941–1952  95
Interlude. "I Like Ike"  120
5. Segregation's Last Stand: 1953–1964  124
Interlude. 1965  150
6. Making the "Good Freedom" 1965–1976  157
Interlude. Closing Craig Air Force Base  187
7. "Last One Out of Selma, Turn Off the Lights": 1977–1988  192
Interlude. Superintendent Norman Roussell and School Leveling  216
8. Two Selmas: 1989–2000  222
Interlude. Joe Gotta Go  244
Epilogue  248
Notes  255
Bibliography  317
Index  335
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7005-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7000-0
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