Black America in the Shadow of the Sixties

Notes on the Civil Rights Movement, Neoliberalism, and Politics
Clarence Lang
A spirited argument for moving beyond the legacy of the Civil Rights era to best understand the current situation of African Americans


The 1960s, including the black social movements of the period, are an obstacle to understanding the current conditions of African Americans, argues Clarence Lang. While Americans celebrate the current anniversaries of various black freedom milestones and the election of the first black president, the effects of neoliberalism since the 1970s have been particularly devastating to African Americans. Neoliberalism, which rejects social welfare protections in favor of individual liberty, unfettered markets, and a laissez-faire national state, has produced an environment in which people of color struggle with unstable employment, declining family income, rising household debt, increased class stratification, and heightened racial terrorism and imprisonment. The book argues that a reassessment of the Sixties and its legacies is necessary to make better sense of black community, leadership, politics, and the prospects for social change today. Combining interdisciplinary scholarship, political reportage, and personal reflection, this work sheds powerful light on the forces underlying the stark social and economic circumstances facing African Americans today, as well as the need for cautious optimism alongside sober analysis.

“In this brilliant, inspiring, and energizing book, Clarence Lang deftly analyzes how black lives have become increasingly disposable under the counterfeit claim of a post-racial society and the effects of an all-encompassing economic Darwinism.  In what may be one of the most important books of the last forty years, questions of racial justice and injustice become both an object of historical critique and a call for developing a new vision, discourse, and social movement.  Anyone concerned about the recent explosion of racial violence in the U.S. and what needs to be done to move beyond such a nightmare must read this book that engages the sixties as an act of public memory, translation, and civic courage.”
—Henry Giroux, McMaster University

“An important and highly readable account of the politics of race in contemporary neoliberal America, set against the ‘long shadow of the Sixties.’ Lang sounds a clarion call for the revival of a hopeful activism applicable to today’s world and distinct from the common media tropes about the past.”
—Edward P. Morgan, author of What Really Happened to the 1960s: How Mass Media Culture Failed American Democracy

“A powerful critique of the sway of the 1960s civil rights movement on black Americans’ contemporary political imaginations. This astute book demonstrates the ways in which nostalgia towards and celebrations of the civil rights movement can limit the potential for African Americans to challenge the key issues facing them today, namely the emphasis on market solutions, deregulation, and a laissez-faire state that characterize neoliberal ideology. In the midst of national celebrations of civil rights anniversaries and the construction of an ever-growing number of monuments and museums celebrating the movement, Lang offers an important warning about the ways the lure of the past can limit thought and action in the present.”
—Renee Romano, Oberlin College

Photo: Barack Obama in the famous Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan, April 18, 2012. (Photo by Pete Souza)

Clarence Lang is Associate Professor of African & African-American Studies, and American Studies, at the University of Kansas.

Praise / Awards

  • "A provocative and important book."
    --W. Glasker, Choice

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News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Clarence Lang interviewed in CNN piece (Link) | July 29, 2016

Read: Clarence Lang in Lawrence Magazine, Lawrence, KS (Link) | Fall, 2015

Read: Clarence Lang in Lawrence Journal-World, Lawrence, KS (Link) | March 8, 2015

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 184pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07266-8

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  • $65.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2015
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05266-0

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  • $22.95 U.S.

  • Audio Download
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-00374-7

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  • $9.99 U.S.

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  • 1960s, Civil Rights Movement, African Americans, Urban Communities, Black Power, Neoliberalism, Barack Obama, U.S. Presidency, Social Protest, History, Race, Class, Mass Incarceration