Broken Heart of America : St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States
by Johnson, Walter







Prologue: Mapping The Loss1(12)
1 William Clark's Map
13(28)
2 War To The Rope
41(32)
3 No Rights The White Man Is Bound To Respect
73(34)
4 Empire And The Limits Of Revolution
107(34)
5 Black Reconstruction And The Counterrevolution Of Property
141(40)
6 The Babylon Of The New World
181(36)
7 The Shape Of Fear
217(34)
8 Not Poor, Just Broke
251(40)
9 "Black Removal By White Approval"
291(46)
10 Defensible Space
337(50)
11 How Long?
387(46)
Epilogue: The Right Place For All The Wrong Reasons433(10)
Acknowledgments443(6)
Notes449(48)
Index497


"From an award-winning historian, a groundbreaking portrait of pervasive exploitation and radical resistance in America, told through the turbulent history of St. Louis. From Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition to the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, American history has been made in St. Louis. And as Walter Johnson shows in this searing book, the city exemplifies how imperialism, racism, and capitalism have persistently entwined to corrupt the nation's past. St. Louis was a staging post for Indian removal and imperial expansion, and its wealth grew on the backs of its poor black residents, from slavery through redlining and urban renewal. But it was once also America's most radical city, home to anti-capitalist immigrants, the Civil War's first general emancipation, and the nation's first general strike - a legacy of resistance that endures. A blistering history of a city's rise and decline, The Broken Heart of America will forever change how we think about the United States."-





Walter Johnson is Winthrop Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. A Missouri native and author of the critically acclaimed Soul by Soul, which won numerous prestigious awards, and River of Dark Dreams, he lives in Arlington, MA.





The 2014 murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, led prizewinning historian and Missouri native Johnson (River of Dark Dreams, 2013) to, as he put it, take the measure of a history he had "lived through but not yet fully understood." Johnson approaches St. Louis with the interpretive tools of his work on the intersection of American capitalism, imperialism, and white supremacy. He vividly describes its neighborhoods, personalities, and historical conflicts while emphasizing how segregation, disinvestment, and race-based economic extraction eventually set the stage for Ferguson. St. Louis has a long history of inventing and refining what became standard white American methods of dealing with "others"-be they Native Americans, African Americans, or non-Americans-using physical removals, resource grabs, and political disenfranchisement to establish control. Now a hard-luck region, it stays true to this heritage, profiting from fines and fees imposed on the poor in a new form of resource extraction. At once gentle and dystopian, Johnson's history of an American city issues an important warning to not ignore the rotten spots in the country's foundation. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.





A Harvard professor of history and African American studies posits that studying the history of St. Louis can help explain more than 200 years of racism and exploitation in the U.S. "This book," writes Johnson, a Missouri native, "traces the history of empire and racial capitalism through a series of stages, beginning with the fur trade in the early nineteenth century and following all the way down to payday lending, tax abatement, for-profit policing, and mass incarceration in our own times." In a narrative of unrelenting, justified outrage grounded in impressive scholarship, Johnson proceeds mostly chronologically. He begins in early-19th-century St. Louis, a city that served as a base for a violent white-dominated government and military, which murdered Native Americans in massive numbers, with impunity, while driving them away from their long-established homelands. After the eradication of Native communities, they turned their violent intentions toward black communities. Many of those black residents had lived in metropolitan St. Louis for generations; tens of thousands more had arrived from the Deep South hoping to escape the aftermath of slavery. I nstead, they encountered a slavery of sorts based on low-wage employment; segregated, substandard housing, transportation, and schooling; and frequent emotional and physical violence. Johnson explains the nature of structural racism, including how it flows naturally from rampant capitalism. Although occasional passages qualify as theoretical—and may only appeal to fellow historians—every chapter includes searing, unforgettable examples. White men often portrayed as heroes are shown by Johnson to be bigots, including Lewis and Clark and Thomas Hart Benton, but the author also exposes plenty of unsavory characters who will be unknown to readers without a familiarity with St. Louis history. Johnson offers plenty of evidence from the current century, as well, including the police murder of Michael Brown in the suburb of Ferguson. The epilogue offers hope, however minimal, that residents can imagine "new ways to live in the city, to connect with and care for one anoth e r, to be human." A well-rendered, incisive exploration of "a history of serial dispossession and imperial violence." Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





A Harvard professor of history and African American studies posits that studying the history of St. Louis can help explain more than 200 years of racism and exploitation in the U.S. "This book," writes Johnson, a Missouri native, "traces the history of empire and racial capitalism through a series of stages, beginning with the fur trade in the early nineteenth century and following all the way down to payday lending, tax abatement, for-profit policing, and mass incarceration in our own times." In a narrative of unrelenting, justified outrage grounded in impressive scholarship, Johnson proceeds mostly chronologically. He begins in early-19th-century St. Louis, a city that served as a base for a violent white-dominated government and military, which murdered Native Americans in massive numbers, with impunity, while driving them away from their long-established homelands. After the eradication of Native communities, they turned their violent intentions toward black communities. Many of those black residents had lived in metropolitan St. Louis for generations; tens of thousands more had arrived from the Deep South hoping to escape the aftermath of slavery. I nstead, they encountered a slavery of sorts based on low-wage employment; segregated, substandard housing, transportation, and schooling; and frequent emotional and physical violence. Johnson explains the nature of structural racism, including how it flows naturally from rampant capitalism. Although occasional passages qualify as theoretical—and may only appeal to fellow historians—every chapter includes searing, unforgettable examples. White men often portrayed as heroes are shown by Johnson to be bigots, including Lewis and Clark and Thomas Hart Benton, but the author also exposes plenty of unsavory characters who will be unknown to readers without a familiarity with St. Louis history. Johnson offers plenty of evidence from the current century, as well, including the police murder of Michael Brown in the suburb of Ferguson. The epilogue offers hope, however minimal, that residents can imagine "new ways to live in the city, to connect with and care for one anoth e r, to be human." A well-rendered, incisive exploration of "a history of serial dispossession and imperial violence." Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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