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The Newark Frontier

Community Action in the Great Society

To many, Newark seems a profound symbol of postwar liberalism’s failings: an impoverished, deeply divided city where commitments to integration and widespread economic security went up in flames during the 1967 riots. While it’s true that these failings shaped Newark’s postwar landscape and economy, as Mark Krasovic shows, that is far from the whole story.

The Newark Frontier shows how, during the Great Society, urban liberalism adapted and grew, defining itself less by centralized programs and ideals than by administrative innovation and the small-scale, personal interactions generated by community action programs, investigative commissions, and police-community relations projects. Paying particular attention to the fine-grained experiences of Newark residents, Krasovic reveals that this liberalism was rooted in an ethic of experimentation and local knowledge. He illustrates this with stories of innovation within government offices, the dynamic encounters between local activists and state agencies, and the unlikely alliances among nominal enemies. Krasovic makes clear that postwar liberalism’s eventual fate had as much to do with the experiments waged in Newark as it did with the violence that rocked the city in the summer of 1967.

384 pages | 21 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Historical Studies of Urban America

History: American History, Urban History

Political Science: Urban Politics


“The real strength of The Newark Frontier is Krasovic’s ability to skillfully weave together various threads—the national and the local, as well as the perspectives of city hall, the police department, and various proponents of community action—to form a nuanced narrative of Newark during this crucial moment of political transformation. . . .By documenting the ways in which local actors tested the limits of the liberal state, Krasovic makes an important contribution to the literature on the Great Society to which future scholars can turn.”

The Journal of African American History

“We have lacked a big book on Newark for a long time, and The Newark Frontier fills this major historiographical gap. Krasovic makes a compelling case for considering Newark as a critical benchmark in Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and, as such, a touchstone for the fate of postwar liberalism. He situates his study brilliantly, showing how Newark happens not just to be the touchstone of a formative experiment but its logical showcase. The riots in Newark, moreover, prove not just incidental to that experiment but woven into its identity, before and after the fact. Through his expert use of diverse sources, Krasovic manages to tell a complex story in a clear and accessible manner. This is an important book.”

Howard Gillette, Jr., author of Camden After the Fall

The Newark Frontier tells an important history of an iconic city during the crucial years of its transition from traditional machine politics of post-World War II through an urban uprising in 1967 to a city led by an African American mayor in 1970. Krasovic uncovers the complicated ways federal programs associated with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society created new avenues to confront ineffective urban policies and political traditions. The book offers a fresh perspective on the Great Society and makes an innovative contribution to the study of urban America. It is clear that Krasovic has done the hard work of research and has thought deeply and creatively about the complicated nature of liberalism.”

Susan Youngblood Ashmore | author of Carry It On: The War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, 1964–1972

“Krasovic tells a riveting story that takes us from the Kennedy/Johnson Great Society to Newark’s streets, documenting how the force of community action transformed American politics and neighborhoods in the 1960s and beyond. The author’s extraordinary research has yielded an indispensable and timely contribution to our understanding of this pivotal decade in the history of U.S. cities. The Newark Frontier deftly balances the efforts of residents, leaders, organizers, law enforcement, and administrators who fought for a better urban future, as they pushed novel levers of federal funding and local power.”

Alison Isenberg, author of Downtown America: A History of the Place and the People Who Made It

Table of Contents

Introduction: Plotting the Great Society and the Urban Crisis in Newark

Part I: The Rise of Community Action
One / The Construction of Community Action in the Great Society
Two / Community Action Comes to Newark
Three / Convergence
Four / The Newark Police Department’s Great Society

Interlude: The Riots

Part II: The Commission Response to Rioting

Five / The Kerner Commission
Six / The Governor’s Commission
Seven / The PBA Commission

Part III: New Directions for Community Action

Eight / Law and Order
Nine / Departures
Ten / Control

Conclusion: Community Action and the Hollow Prize
Abbreviations Used in Notes

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