The Long Civil Rights Movement (NCHHI519)
This course examines civil rights activism in favour of racial equality in the modern period.
The focus is on the USA where, in recent years, historians have worked hard to move away from the traditional focus on the non-violent protests associated with the leadership of King in the post-war south.
Some people now assert that a ‘long’ civil rights movement operated across the twentieth century that had a much broader set of goals and that operated far beyond the confines of the south – even travelling overseas. This course prompts participants to engage with the unresolved questions raised by this approach through an exploration of a series of diverse protest movements during a dynamic and transformative period. As we progress, we will identify a series of running themes, centering on factors of race, class, gender, generation and geography, which helped decide the extent of black advancement in this period, as well as its limitations.
One great fascination with this topic stems from the variety of historical challenges confronting us. We will consider events from the ‘top’, for instance by looking at the shifting policies of the Federal Government, and from the ‘bottom’ by looking at the local activists whose work was often deliberately conducted in secret. As such, some episodes will be instantly familiar but will require us to work to separate myth from reality; others, meanwhile, have previously been hidden from historical view forcing us to piece together clues from fragmentary archival evidence.