This introductory chapter discusses events that mark three periods of racial progress in U.S. history. These are: the period following the Revolutionary War, the period that began with the Civil War and ended with the compromise of 1877, and the period following World War II. Obama's election as president is believed to mark the beginning of a fourth. The analysis undertaken in this work along with some lessons from periods past enables us to speculate on how long the current period might last and what direction it might take. Unfortunately, these periods of racial progress come on the heels of national crises—wars—that destabilize the status quo and allow for the emergence of new ideas and leaders. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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