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Black Power in the Intersection. Dr. Yohuru Williams Fairfield University January 2009. Conceptualizing the Civil Rights & Black Power Movement for Students: America’s Second Civil War. Dr. Yohuru Williams, Fairfield University. Using Historiography.

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black power in the intersection

Black Power in the Intersection

Dr. Yohuru Williams

Fairfield University

January 2009

conceptualizing the civil rights black power movement for students america s second civil war

Conceptualizing the Civil Rights & Black Power Movement for Students: America’s Second Civil War.

Dr. Yohuru Williams, Fairfield University

using historiography
Using Historiography
  • Three views on the Civil Rights Movement . . .
every generation writes its own history
Every generation writes its own history . . .
  • “Every generation writes its own history, for the reason that it sees the past in the foreshortened perspective of its own experience.”
  • John Hope Franklin and Abraham Eisenstadt, The American History Series
revising history
Revising History
  • “The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way . . . people look at reality, then you can change it.”
  • James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)
the civil rights movements as a second reconstruction
The Civil Rights Movements as a Second Reconstruction
  • Historian Ted Tunnell: “The second Reconstruction is what historians call the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the time in which finally black people are truly emancipated. They're only half emancipated after the Civil War. Final emancipation, final meaning to the promise of the first Reconstruction, doesn't come until the 1950s and the 1960s, in the second Reconstruction. But without the first one, you don't have the second.”
the civil rights movement as a second civil war
The Civil Rights Movement as a Second Civil War
  • In 1992 Howard University Professor Arnold H. Taylor offered a third approach to looking at the Civil Rights Movement. Taylor described it as a Second Civil War.
civil rights movement leaders
Civil Rights Movement Leaders

Civil Rights Movement Leaders

major legislation
Major Legislation and constitutional Amendments resulting from CW & Reconstruction

The 13th Amendment, 1865

The 14th Amendment, 1868

The Civil Rights Act of 1866

The 15th Amendment 1870

The Enforcement Act 1870

The Ku Klux Klan Act 1871

The Civil Rights Act of 1875

Major legislation resulting from the Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Act of 1957

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Voting Rights Act of 1965

The 24th Amendment

Major Legislation
the problem of the color line
“The problem of the Color Line.”
  • The concerns outlined by Justice Harlan were echoed by W.E.B. Du Bois who, on the launch of his influential 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk, proclaimed “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line”— with its narrow interpretation of the 14th Amendment Plessey v. Ferguson gave birth to legalized Jim Crow Segregation.
jacqueline dowd hall
Jacqueline Dowd Hall
  • “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.”
historiography the heroic phase of the civil rights movement 1955 1965
Historiography: The Heroic Phase of the Civil Rights Movement 1955-1965
  • Historiography:
  • The standard interpretation: the declension narrative.
  • The Heroic Phase of the Civil Rights Movement
major armies
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)


The Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

The Department of Justice (Kennedy and Katzenbach)

Mississippi, Ross Barnett

Alabama, George Wallace

Virginia, J. Lindsey Almond and Senator Harry Byrd

The United Klans of America

Major Armies
segregation forever
Segregation forever?
  • Time called Governor Ross Barnett "as bitter a racist as inhabits the nation.” And Governor George Wallace contributed the defiant catch phrase of opposition to desegregation . . . But you need not go any further South than Charlottesville to illustrate Southern resistance to Court mandated desegregation of schools in Brown.
complicating the narrative
Complicating the narrative
  • Reverend James Reeb
  • Viola Liuzzo
  • Virginia Foster Dorr
j lindsay almond mine was not a spirit of defiance
J Lindsay Almond “Mine was not a spirit of defiance.”
  • “Well, before I ran for governor, I had been attorney general of Virginia for approximately ten years. And, with associates, I handled and argued all of those school cases, all the segregation cases, in the lower federal courts, district courts, Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of the United States. And I did everything I could as a lawyer—honorably, I trust--to get the Supreme Court to adhere to the separate but equal doctrine which had been announced in 1898, I believe, in the case of Plessey against Ferguson. I believed that was sound, the Plessey decision. And I fought with everything I had, and lost.
  • The decision caused very much unrest in Virginia. People were upset about it. And I led the fight as far as I could as attorney general to try to preserve the separate school system in Virginia, even after the Supreme Court’s decision. Mine was not a spirit of defiance.”
j lindsay almond mine was not a spirit of defiance20
J Lindsay Almond “Mine was not a spirit of defiance.”
  • I was trying to find some legal avenue of accommodation, knowing full well as a lawyer that I was in a desperate situation to do. When I came in as Governor of Virginia I had been saddled with state statutes which had been enacted during the administration of my predecessor, Governor Stanley [Thomas B. Stanley]. I, as attorney general, had advised him that those laws would not stand up under attack in the federal courts. But notwithstanding that, the legislature, at the behest of the governor, enacted them. As governor, I was under an obligation to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of Virginia, and the laws of the United States and the laws of Virginia. I had two inconsistencies there. I’d taken an oath to uphold both of them. So having to make a choice, I decided I’d do all I could to uphold the laws of my state. And I did.
law as law breaker
Law as Law Breaker
  • “Then the crash came. My own supreme court knocked those laws out. As a lawyer I knew all the time that no governor or no public official could defy the law of the panel. I knew from past decisions of the states, that a governor who acted beyond law was acting as an individual and not as a governor, and he was subject to being restrained by law, by injunction, and if necessary by contempt process.”
The Civil Rights Movement like the American Civil War gave birth to parallel movements at home and abroad
  • The Great Age of Emancipation (1833-1871)
  • Gradual Emancipation in Britain 1833, Russia emancipates the Serfs 1861, the 13th Amendment US 1865, Rio Branco Law Brazil 1871.
  • The Women's Movement
  • The American Indian Movement
  • African Liberation Struggles
  • The rise of White hate groups, most notably the Ku Klux Klan
  • Government Repression from Jim Crow to COINTELPRO to Gitmo.
the naacp
  • The NAACP was formed in response to the 1908 race riot in Springfield, capital of Illinois and birthplace of President Abraham Lincoln. Appalled at the violence that was committed against blacks, a group of white liberals that included Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard, both the descendants of abolitionists, issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice. Some 60 people, only 7 of whom were African American (including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell), signed the call, which was released on the centennial of Lincoln's birth.
major battles of the second civil war
Major Battles of the Second Civil War
  • Montgomery, Alabama 1955
  • Little Rock, Arkansas 1957
  • The Freedom Rides 1960
  • Albany, Georgia, 1962
  • Birmingham, Alabama 1963
  • Freedom Summer, Mississippi 1964
  • Selma, Alabama, 1965
  • Chicago, Illinois and the Meredith March, Miss. 1966
  • Memphis, Tennessee and the Poor People’s Campaign 1968
the black power movement
The Black Power Movement
  • In the 1960s the Black Power movement also emerged as a major political force, especially in cities.
  • The traditional approach of African-American leaders had been to work through the system for inclusion in elected offices and political decision-making.
  • Black power emphasized self-organization at the community level, rejected many of the key concepts of capitalism, and stressed the need for African-Americans to defend themselves.
  • Organizations such as the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers, with leaders such as Elijah Mohammed, Malcolm X, and Huey Newton strongly challenged the white monopoly on political power.
the parallel movement with no name
The parallel movement with no name
  • “Different kinds of movements all kinds of movements and they remain almost invisible they remain almost unknown and yet they are there.”
what was the black power movement
What was the Black Power Movement?
  • “Instead of young people singing "We Shall Overcome," new images of militant black men and women were being shown on television -- black berets, raised fists, men with guns. And along with goals of social justice and integration came ideas of black separatism and power harking back to the black nationalism that had been preached in the 1920's by Marcus Garvey.”
  • “Stokely Carmichael, Rights Leader Who Coined 'Black Power,' Dies at 57,” New York Times, November 16, 1998
the call for black power
The Call for Black Power
  • “Stressing racial pride, the connection between civil rights in the United States and the third world, and political self-determination through bruising and at times deliberatively provocative protests, local militants in the North were simultaneously inspired by the heroic efforts at direct action of the civil-rights struggles in the South and repulsed by the spectacles of racial violence there. By the late 1950s, they had formed a parallel movement with no name, cynical about American democracy's willingness to defend black citizenship.”
  • Peniel Joseph
local national international
Local, national, & international
  • The uniting of black people.
  • The development of black economic power.
  • Heightened consciousness of black identity.
let a new asia and a new africa be born
"Let a New Asia and a New Africa be Born".

Bandung Conference, April 18-April 24, 1955.

Indonesian President Achmad Sukarno

We are often told "Colonialism is dead." Let us not be deceived or even soothed by that. I say to you, colonialism is not yet dead. How can we say it is dead, so long as vast areas of Asia and Africa are unfree.”

a raisin in the sun
A Raisin in the Sun
  • WALTER: You wouldn’t understand yet, son, but your daddy’s gonna make a transaction . . . a business transaction that’s going to change our lives. . . . That’s how come one day when you ‘bout seventeen years old I’ll come home . . . I’ll pull the car up on the driveway . . . just a plain black Chrysler, I think, with white walls—no—black tires . . . the gardener will be clipping away at the hedges and he’ll say, “Good evening, Mr. Younger.” And I’ll say, “Hello, Jefferson, how are you this evening?”
a raisin in the sun36
A Raisin in the Sun
  • And I’ll go inside and Ruth will come downstairs and meet me at the door and we’ll kiss each other and she’ll take my arm and we’ll go up to your room to see you sitting on the floor with the catalogues of all the great schools in America around you. . . . All the great schools in the world! And—and I’ll say, all right son—it’s your seventeenth birthday, what is it you’ve decided? . . . Just tell me, what it is you want to be—and you’ll be it. . . . Whatever you want to be—Yessir! You just name it, son . . . and I hand you the world!
a uniquely american story
A Uniquely American Story
  • An interviewer asked, "This is not really a Negro play; why, this could be about anybody! It's a play about people! What is your reaction? What do say?" She answered "Well, I hadn't noticed the contradiction because I'd always been under the impression that Negroes are people. . ."
harlem a dream deferred 1951
Harlem: A Dream Deferred (1951)
  • What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore-- And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over-- like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

red light green light the scenario
Red Light Green Light: The Scenario
  • Imagine that the power has gone out in the city and four cars are sitting at a busy four way intersection. They have all arrived at the same time. There are no police officers around. No authorities to consult . . .
  • Who should go first?
  • What are the Economic, Social and Political ramifications of their decision to move forward? What if they fail to move?
  • This reinforces the concept of agency . . . that historical actors have and make choices.
document choices
Document Choices

At least three sides

Green: A side that wants things to change (go)

Red: A side that wants things to remain the same (stop)

Yellow: those trapped at the light on caution

Lastly, the individual who has moved into the intersection.

black power in four intersections
Black Power in Four Intersections
  • intersect
  • One entry found.
  • Main Entry:
  • to pierce or divide by passing through or across : cross <a comet intersecting earth's orbit> <one line intersects another>
  • intransitive verb
  • 1 : to meet and cross at a point <lines intersecting at right angles>
  • 2 : to share a common area : overlap <where morality and self-interest intersect>
the problem of the color line44
The Problem of the Color Line
  • The Franchise
  • Segregation
  • Lynching
  • World War I
chapter one yes we 1955
Chapter One: Yes We! (1955)
  • “What can we do? We can do much! We can inject the voice of reason into world affairs. We can mobilize all the spiritual, all the moral, all the political strength of Asia and Africa on the side of peace. Yes, we!"
  • April, 18, 1955
chapter three the meredith march against fear 1966
Chapter Three: The Meredith March Against Fear (1966)
  • “This is the 27th time I have been arrested—and I ain’t going to jail no more! The only way we gonna stop them white men from whuppin’ us is to take over. We been saying ‘Freedom’ for six years and we ain’t got nothin’. What we gonna start saying now is ‘Black Power’!” June 16, 1966
the meredith march against fear 1966
The Meredith March against Fear (1966)
  • "You tell them white folks in Mississippi that all the scared niggers are dead!"
  • Stokley Carmichael, Greenwood, Mississippi, (1966)
bifurcating martin luther king
Bifurcating Martin Luther King
  • “We must utilize the community action groups and training centers no proliferating in some slum areas to crate not merely an electorate, but a conscious, alert and informed people who know their direction and whose collective wisdom and vitality commands respect. The slave heritage can be cast into the dim past by our consciousness of our strengths and a resolute determination to use them in our daily experiences.”
  • “Power is not the white man’s birthright; it will not be legislated for us and delivered in neat government packages. It is social force any group can utilize by accumulation its elements in a planned deliberate campaign to organized it under its own control.”
  • Martin Luther King Jr. June 11, 1967
no man can give anybody his freedom
“No man can give anybody his freedom.”

Delivered at Berkley, California, October (1966)

SNCC Chairman, Stokley Carmichael

  • Now, then, in order to understand white supremacy we must dismiss the fallacious notion that white people can give anybody their freedom. No man can give anybody his freedom. A man is born free. You may enslave a man after he is born free, and that is in fact what this country does. It enslaves black people after they’re born, so that the only acts that white people can dois to stop denying black people their freedom; that is, they must stop denying freedom.
new haven 1969
New Haven, 1969

Civil Rights in the Urban North

Connecticut in the intersection

soul on ice
Soul on Ice
  • Black Power
  • Southern Diaspora
  • The Carceral State
  • Self Defense
manifest destiny in four intersections
Manifest Destiny in Four Intersections
  • France (1803)
  • Spain (1819)
  • Mexico (1848)
  • Cuba (1898)
abraham lincoln in four intersections
Abraham Lincoln in Four Intersections
  • The Secession Crisis
  • Commander in Chief
  • Emancipation
  • Reconstruction
lyndon baines johnson in four intersections
Lyndon Baines Johnson in Four Intersections
  • A National Tragedy
  • Civil Rights
  • War on Poverty
  • War in Vietnam