This book is constructed out of the essential stuff of history: the record of discrimination against the American black from his arrival in Jamestown, Virginia, to the Freedom Marches on Washington 350 years later. Ginzberg and Eichner, in an innovative interpretation of basic political conflict in the American experience, reveal how democracy evolved without making a place for the African-Americans.
The authors present the facts boldly and carefully. They recount how all presidents from George Washington to William Howard Taft saw little future for the blacks in the United States—and wanted rather to ship them back to Africa. They tell how Lincoln received appropriations from Congress during the Civil War for colonizing black people. The volume emphasizes the national, rather than regional, character of racial prejudice.
Troublesome Presence, while solidly based in history, provides broad generalizations that are interpretive and original. For example, the authors claim that blacks have made gains often because of conflicts among whites. Ginzberg and Eichner indicate that the new political alignments are a result of blacks being in a position to help swing key Northern states in presidential elections—with the consequence that the federal government must intervene to secure their rights.
Despite the harsh reading of the American past, the authors offer an optimistic portrait—one based on Supreme Court decisions, and no less, increasing opportunities for blacks in education, employment, housing and social relations. The African-Americans are moving toward true equality in the world's first biracial democracy. This book provides a tough-minded appraisal of the American past coupled with a fair-minded sense of the American present.