Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston, SC

Daniel Brook at Grace Church Cathedral Okra Soup Meeting, Tues., June 25, 5 pm

Tues., June 25, at 5 pm, historian and journalist Daniel Brook will be at Grace Church Cathedral (98 Wentworth St.) to give a talk about his fascinating new book The Accident of Color (W.W. Norton, hb., 336 pp., $28).

Grace Church and Mt. Zion AME host Okra Soup jointly in Hanahan Hall at Grace. Soup will be served and all are welcome. Five dollar donations are requested for dinner.

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. Before the Civil War, these free, openly mixed-race urbanites enjoyed some rights of citizenship and the privileges of wealth and social status. But after Emancipation, as former slaves move to assert their rights, the black-white binary that rules the rest of the nation begins to intrude. 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.

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

The Accident of Color revisits a crucial inflection point in American history. By returning to the birth of our nation’s singularly narrow racial system, which was forged in the crucible of opposition to civil rights, Brook illuminates the origins of the racial lies we live by.

Daniel Brook’s writing has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, and The Nation. His last book, A History of Future Cities, was longlisted for the Lionel Gelber Prize and selected as one of the ten “Favorite Books of 2013” by the Washington Post. Born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, and educated at Yale, Brook lives in New Orleans.

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