Professor Thomas Healy released his much-awaited book, “Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia”

Healy's Book Receives National Acclaim

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Published 2021-02-04


Professor Thomas Healy released his much-awaited book, “Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia”, exploring the rise and fall of Soul City, a concept developed and nurtured in the 1970s by civil rights leader Floyd McKissick. It was designed as a model of black economic empowerment and to help relieve northern urban decay. The planned city was to be built on an abandoned slave plantation in rural North Carolina and was to reflect the latest thinking in social policy and urban planning. Despite support from the Nixon administration and various private organizations, the plan ran into stiff resistance from conservatives, including Senator Jesse Helms, and was abandoned after 10 years.

In support of this project, Professor Healy was awarded a Public Scholar Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Public Scholar Grant supports the creation of well-researched nonfiction books in the humanities written for the broad public.


"Healy’s book chronicles the rise and fall of Soul City while examining the theory of social change espoused by McKissick and other civil rights activists in the post-Martin Luther King milieu called 'Black capitalism.'" How White Liberals Destroyed the 1970s’ Soul City: A new book explains how Floyd McKissick’s plan to build a utopia for African Americans based on the theory of “Black capitalism” was ultimately sabotaged, Bloomberg CityLab (Feb. 16, 2021)

Essay, The 1970s Black Utopian City That Became a Modern Ghost Town: What the demise of an experimental Black town reveals about the struggle for racial equality today, The Atlantic (Feb. 16, 2021)

Editors’s Choice, “One of the greatest least-told stories in American history... Healy does an excellent job recounting the details.” The New York Times Book Review (Feb. 14, 2021)

Editors’s Choice, “Healy’s greatest strength is his eye for the procedural details — the who, what, when and where of the Soul City story.” The New York Times, 11 New Books We Recommend This Week (Feb. 11, 2021)

Soul City named one of 3 must-read books for Black History Month, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3 must-read books for Black History Month (Feb. 9, 2021)

"Healy's fascinating book explores how McKissick went about building a city from scratch, only to have his dreams dashed by a combination of prejudice and bureaucracy. It's an excellent chronicle not just of McKissick's project, but of an America in the 1970s still influenced by anti-Black racism." NPR, In 'Soul City,' One Man Envisions A Place Where Black People Have Power, Opportunity (Jan. 29, 2021)

"Healy ably delineates the complex process of creating a city from scratch, which involved promotion, fundraising, grueling bureaucracy and political attacks, and attempting to convincing people and businesses to relocate to the proposed city—not to mention the devastating series of articles in the Raleigh News & Observer alleging fraud and corruption on the part of McKissick." KIRKUS, An engrossing and often heartbreaking look at a singular attempt to achieve some measure of racial equality in the U.S. (Jan. 26, 2021)

Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia is available on