The Long Civil Rights Movement

The Long Civil Rights Movement

To Right These Wrongs is a featured work on the Long Civil Rights Movement Project’s online publishing platform.  Chapter 4, “An Army of the Poor,” is free to the public, and registered visitors are invited to add their thoughts and questions by commenting on the work at the paragraph level.  Click the image above to learn more.

The Long Civil Rights Movement Project is a joint undertaking of the University of North Carolina Press, the Southern Oral History Program, the Center for Civil Rights in the University of North Carolina School of Law, and the University of North Carolina Library.  The project seeks to broaden and deepen the traditional understanding of the civil rights struggle as a 1960s-era American phenomenon.  It stretches the movement’s timeline to include the radical milieu of the 1930s and contemporary controversies such as school resegregation, campaigns for environmental and economic justice, the women’s and gay rights movements, and the forces arrayed against progressive reform.  It also reaches beyond the borders of the United States, seeking out the civil rights movement’s global connections.

Much of the intellectual scaffolding for the project can be found in the widely cited and anthologized essay, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Spruill Professor of History and Director of the Southern Oral History Program.  The essay was delivered in 2004 as her presidential address to the Organization of American Historians and published the following year in the Journal of American History.  “By confining the civil rights struggle to the South . . .  to a single halcyon decade, and to limited, non-economic objectives, the master narrative simultaneously elevates and diminishes the movement,” Hall wrote.  “It ensures the status of the classical phase as a triumphal movement in a larger American progress narrative, yet it undermines its gravitas.  It prevents one of the most remarkable mass movements in American history from speaking effectively to the challenges of our time.”  Expanding the narrative to the events that came before and after the classically defined Civil Rights Movement, Hall argued, will reinforce the moral authority of those who fought for change in those years.  “At the same time,” she explained, “I want to make civil rights harder.  Harder to celebrate as a natural progression of American values.  Harder to cast as a satisfying morality tale. Most of all, harder to simplify, appropriate and contain.”

The Long Civil Rights Movement Project is supported by a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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