Since the early 20th century, Jews promoted civil rights for Black Americans in law, society, and employment. The Jewish hand of friendship developed into a natural alliance of African-American and Jewish leaders committed to racial equality that blossomed in the 1950s and 1960s and culminated with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Despite their long term mutual efforts towards racial equality, the Black-Jewish Alliance faltered after Jews and Blacks cooperated to achieve these victories, and their alliance lay in ruins by the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Black-Jewish Alliance began to wane as government institutionalized racial preferences in education and employment. While observers argue affirmative action ended these communities' cooperation, government-mandated racial preferences merely highlighted the underlying cause of the disintegration of Black-Jewish Alliance: the transformation of Jewish American identity from racial minority to "white ethnic." The Jewish racial transformation-a gradual shift in their association with ethnic communities-augmented racial disputes between Blacks and Jews. As Jewish identity shifted from perceived racial minority to American white ethnicity, the Black-Jewish racial fault line shook along the fronts of Black Nationalism and neoconservatism. These racial cleavages-spurred by the fluidity of Jewish ethnic identity-highlighted divergent Black and Jewish conceptions of the meaning and purpose of civil rights. The chasm separating Black and Jewish conceptions of civil rights manifested itself in the 1970s when the champions of racial equality advocated competing sides of a still contentious philosophical war fought on the battlefields of the U.S. Supreme Court in University of California Regents v. Bakke (1978) and DeFunis v. Odegaard (1974).
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Caplin, Nathan G., "Jewish Ethnic Identity and the Dissolution of the Black-Jewish Alliance" (2012). Theses and Dissertations. 3574.
affirmative action, African American, alliance, anti-Semitism, Bakke, black, Black Nationalism, civil rights, ethnic, Jewish, neoconservatism