This history of Floyd McKissick's 1969 plan to build a Black city in North Carolina examines the story of the idealists who settled there, the obstacles that derailed the project, and what Soul City's saga says about Black opportunity, capitalism, and power then and now.
It's an excellent chronicle not just of McKissick's project, but of an America in the 1970s still influenced by anti-Black racism ... The Soul City project was a fascinating one, and Healy does a wonderful job explaining how and why it ultimately failed. The book is meticulously researched, and Healy expertly provides ample context; he paints an excellent, and accurate, picture of America in the 1970s, a country still in denial about the racism that was poisoning the nation to its core. He also manages to craft a deft, readable narrative out of the ups and downs of the Soul City project. Government grants and bank loans aren't topics that typically scream 'page-turner,' but Healy is a natural storyteller; the book is difficult to put down, even if you know how it ends. Most importantly, Soul City succeeds because of Healy's trenchant analysis.
Today, a crumbling ghost town, Soul City is hard to find. What happened? In this sympathetic, deeply researched, and heartbreaking account, Healy, a professor at Seton Hall Law School and author of The Great Dissent, details the innumerable obstacles that blocked the way for a bold venture in racial equality.
... stirring ... Building on historian Robert O. Self’s work on postwar Oakland, Healy shows how economic empowerment and community building formed a key tenet of Black Power ideology ... Like many good authors, Healy sometimes overstates the pioneering nature of his work ... Like many good authors, Healy sometimes overstates the pioneering nature of his work ... nd Healy’s insistence on including detailed sketches of even minor figures can lead to unexpected shifts in tone, with languid biographical anecdotes unfolding mid-chapter. Yet McKissick’s efforts deserve to be recounted at length, and Healy’s passionate and humane account restores Soul City to its place in histories of civil rights and urban renewal alike ... Soul City makes a case for the importance of space to the project of Black emancipation—space to dream, space to grow. The book’s final chapters, which recount McKissick and his staff’s desperate attempts to save their city, are deeply moving. McKissick had imagined that Soul City’s streets would reflect the project’s visionary spirit, with roads named for Nat Turner and Dred Scott. Now Turner Circle and Scott Circle lead only to dead ends.