The Accident of Color (Paperback)

A Story of Race in Reconstruction

By Daniel Brook

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393531725, 368pp.

Publication Date: November 24, 2020

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (6/18/2019)
Compact Disc (6/18/2019)

List Price: 17.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A technicolor history of the first civil rights movement and its collapse into black and white.

Brutal slavery existed all over the New World, but only America followed emancipation with a twisted system of segregation. The Accident of Color asks why. Searching for answers, Daniel Brook journeys to the places that resisted Jim Crow the longest. In the cosmopolitan port cities of New Orleans and Charleston, integrated streetcars plied avenues patrolled by integrated police forces for decades after the Civil War. This progress was ushered in during Reconstruction when long-free, openly biracial communities joined in coalition with the formerly enslaved and allies at the fringes of whiteness. Tragically, their victories—including integrated schools—and their alliance itself were violently uprooted by segregation along a stark, new black-white color line. By revisiting a turning point in the construction of America’s uniquely restrictive racial system, The Accident of Color brings to life a moment from our past that illuminates the origins of the racial lies we live by.

About the Author

Daniel Brook is a journalist and author whose writing has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, and the Nation. Born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, and educated at Yale University, Brook lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Praise For The Accident of Color: A Story of Race in Reconstruction

A spell-binding exploration of mixed-race Charlestonians and New Orleanians who… built complex lives across the color line.… Heartbreaking but also vividly alive, The Accident of Color… portrays the many ways people struggled for the right to define themselves in a time of hardening racial lines. A lovely, necessary book.

— Gregory P. Downs, professor of history, University of California, Davis, and author of The Second American Revolution