Thursday May 1st 2014 – 1PM
Madison Square Park
5th Avenue & West 25th Street, New York, NY 10010
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 moderate – 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).”
In the months leading up to “I have a dream” and President Kennedy’s proposal of the Civil Rights Act, blacks in Birmingham exploded in insurrection; even as the iconic pictures of pacifists bombarded with fire hoses were being taken, Life magazine photographer Charles Moore was injured by a brick thrown by a protester, intended for a fireman. The following month, blacks and whites exchanged gunfire in Cambridge, Maryland and Lexington, North Carolina; bottles flew at police in Jackson, Mississippi and buildings burned in Savannah, Georgia. The placid March on Washington was in many ways a victory celebration of a summer of rebellion that had put the country on notice. The months when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 wound its way through Congress, and when Malcolm X gave his “Ballot or the Bullet” speech throughout the country, were marked by similar confrontation.
As the mainstream media presents its sanitized retrospective of the movement in this era of civil rights anniversaries, join Lorenzo Raymond for a reclamation of People’s history and a salute to the mass militancy that changed America.
Free University: http://freeuniversitynyc.org/
This is part of the 3rd annual May Day Free University in Madison Square Park, and an updated version of a presentation we gave in July at 16 Beaver: http://year0.org/2013/07/20/saturday-diversity-of-tactics-in-the-civil-rights-movement-1956-1965-a-case-study/