Saturday: Diversity of Tactics in the Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1965: A Case Study

Saturday, July 20th 2013, 4PM
16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10004

Popular history characterizes the civil rights struggle as part of what historian Andrew Hartman calls the “good sixties” – a period when social movements were supposedly pacifistic and innately liberal – but the scholarly consensus is coming to agree that the Black freedom movement did not win its greatest victories until it resorted to radical and diverse tactics.

CUNY historian Jeanne Theoharis recently wrote of “a dramatic shift in Civil Rights historiography… a host of new scholarship that, over the past decade, has… ushered a new set of characters and events to the stage and then begun to rewrite the entire play…the variety of tools employed in the fight for social change…reveal the “good” movement (1954-1965) only succeeded through its militant stepchild (Black Power).” Theoharis’ own acclaimed biography of Rosa Parks casts a critical eye on the aftermath of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, describes the early onset of white backlash, and reminds us that Mrs. Parks expressed ardent gratitude to Malcolm X, Robert F. Williams, and other militants for giving the movement teeth as it reached maturity in the early 1960s.

From the paralyzing white backlash in Montgomery after the bus boycott; to the realization of the limits of nonviolence after the Albany campaign of 1962; to the riotous awakening in Birmingham in 1963; to the turbulent summer that led up to the March on Washington; to the credible foreshadow of a “dark night of social disruption” that Dr. King warned of if the Civil Rights Act was not passed; to Malcolm X’s role in the Selma campaign, this talk will examine how the freedom movement used a diversity of tactics to overcome the twin obstacles of repression and marginalization that it faced on its way to making history.

The Free University of NYC:
16 Beaver Group:

This talk is part of the Free University of NYC’s “Reclaim the Commons”, taking place from 1-6pm. The full schedule is on their website.

On June 15th the Free University and the Brecht Forum organized an event in Harlem, “Assata Shakur’s Legacy & Lives of Resistance”. We previously participated in the Free University’s “Occupied Cooper Union: How can we free education?” event on May 18th with “An Open Discussion on the History and Future of Radical Student Struggle”.

The Free University of New York City is an experiment in radical education and an attempt to create education as it ought to be. First conceived as a form of educational strike in the run up to May Day, 2012, the Free University has subsequently organized numerous days of free and open education in parks and public spaces in New York City.