Democracy Rising

Democracy Rising: South Carolina and the Fight for Black Equality since 1865

Peter F. Lau
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    Democracy Rising
    Book Description:

    Considered by many historians to be the birthplace of the Confederacy, South Carolina experienced one of the longest and most turbulent Reconstruction periods of all the southern states. After the Civil War, white supremacist leadership in the state fiercely resisted the efforts of freed slaves to secure full citizenship rights and to remake society based upon an expansive vision of freedom forged in slavery and the crucible of war. Despite numerous obstacles, African Americans achieved remarkable social and political advances in the ten years following the war, including the establishment of the state's first publicly-funded school system and health care for the poor. Through their efforts, the state's political process and social fabric became more democratic.

    Peter F. Lau traces the civil rights movement in South Carolina from Reconstruction through the early twenty-first century. He stresses that the movement was shaped by local, national, and international circumstances in which individuals worked to redefine and expand the meaning and practice of democracy beyond the borders of their own state. Contrary to recent scholars who separate civil rights claims from general calls for economic justice, Lau asserts that African American demands for civil rights have been inseparable from broader demands for a redistribution of social and economic power. Using the tension between rights possession and rights application as his organizing theme, Lau fundamentally revises our understanding of the civil rights movement in America.

    In addition to considering South Carolina's pivotal role in the national civil rights movement, Lau offers a comprehensive analysis of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) during the height of its power and influence, from 1910 through the years followingBrown v. Board of Education(1954). During this time, the NAACP worked to ensure the rights guaranteed to African Americans by the 14th and 15th amendments and facilitated the emergence of a broad-based movement that included many of the nation's rural and most marginalized people.

    By examining events that occurred in South Carolina and the impact of the activities of the NAACP,Democracy Risingupends traditional interpretations of the civil rights movement in America. In their place, Lau offers an innovative way to understand the struggle for black equality by tracing the movement of people, institutions, and ideas across boundaries of region, nation, and identity. Ultimately, the book illustrates how conflicts caused by the state's history of racial exclusion and discrimination continue to shape modern society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5912-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  5. Introduction: The Politics of Civil Rights Struggle
    (pp. 1-14)

    This book is a history of the African American struggle for civil rights in South Carolina and the United States from Reconstruction through the decade followingBrown v. Board of Education(1954), the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that smashed the legal underpinnings of Jim Crow segregation. As the scholarship concerned with the origins and impact of the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s has amply shown, the African American struggle for civil rights was and continues to be one of the most important reform movements in the history of the United States.¹ However, the search for the...

  6. 1 Segregation and Self-Determination: The Making of the NAACP
    (pp. 15-48)

    By all accounts, Anthony Crawford embodied the Booker T. Washington philosophy of self-help and racial uplift. He was born in Abbeville County, South Carolina, in 1865 not far up the road from the site of the 1898 Phoenix race riot and only a county north of the 1876 Hamburg Massacre that helped secure Ben Tillman’s reputation as a steadfast champion of white male supremacy. Upon the death of his formerly enslaved father, Crawford inherited a small plot of land seven miles northwest of the town of Abbeville. For a time, Crawford managed to navigate the state’s precarious racial terrain on...

  7. 2 Riot and Reaction: The Lineaments of Reinvention
    (pp. 49-70)

    In the early months of 1919 the black struggle for self-determination and equality in South Carolina continued to grow in size and power. The NAACP began to expand beyond its initial base of operations in Columbia and Charleston and its original gender and class biases became subject to challenge and revision. By the fall, black teachers were teaching in Charleston’s black public schools and within a year black women were organizing to secure voting rights. Edwin “Teddy” Harleston and W.D. Chappelle even imagined the potential of an organized black populace capable of splitting the all-white state Democratic Party and holding...

  8. 3 Radicalism and Liberal Reform: The NAACP during the New Deal
    (pp. 71-106)

    With declining prospects for movement expansion in the violence-torn South and the ongoing migration of black people to the urban North, African Americans searched for new directions in their ongoing struggle for civil rights and self-determination, and the NAACP remained at the center of the search. Through the pages ofThe Crisismagazine, W.E.B. Du Bois helped the association publicize racial violence and discrimination and provided black people with a forum to share thoughts, articulate their needs, and debate the future course of struggle. Along with the National Urban League, the association sponsored an outpouring of black literary and artistic...

  9. 4 Civil Rights and Collective Action: The Battle for Black Empowerment
    (pp. 107-144)

    In 1919 a number of black South Carolinians imagined the possibilities of creating a statewide black political party capable of challenging the all-white, state Democratic Party’s stranglehold on life in South Carolina. The 1920s were, however, years of repression and contraction, rather than expansion for the black struggle for self-determination and equality in South Carolina and yet, at the same moment that the political possibilities of the World War I years appeared to have exhausted themselves, the seeds of future change were taking root. In 1927, the same year that John Birks Gillespie’s father died of an asthma attack, Levi...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. 5 Popular Fronts: From New Deal Coalition to Black Rights Revolution
    (pp. 145-186)

    As World War II came to a close, African Americans in the North and South were increasingly able to articulate their needs and represent their interests on a regional and national scale in a way earlier generations could only imagine. Migration to the urban North, grassroots organizing and political mobilization, the growth of the NAACP, and the creation of seemingly countless voting rights organizations in the South, all signaled the powerful emergence of a previously submerged element in American life. At the same time, the wartime growth of the AFL and the CIO, a wave of nationwide strikes in 1945...

  12. 6 Cold War Civil Rights: Brown v. Board of Education and the Emerging Power of the Periphery
    (pp. 187-214)

    To think and write about the black struggle for civil rights in the 1950s, the period canonized as the era of the NAACP’s legal victory inBrown v. Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the rise of Martin Luther King Jr., and the school integration crisis in Little Rock, Arkansas, without reference to the cold war would be more than mere folly. It would be bad history. The United States’s conflict with the Soviet Union and its preoccupation with defeating the forces of Communism abroad and at home shaped the black struggle for self-determination and equality, just as it...

  13. Conclusion: Movement, Memory, and American Democracy
    (pp. 215-232)

    In South Carolina, the future of the movement was registered at the precise moment that the movement of the past seemed on the precipice of total collapse. As African Americans did across the South in the wake ofBrown, black parents in Orangeburg, South Carolina, organized a petition drive through their local NAACP branch to demand an immediate end to segregation in the town’s public schools. Orangeburg was home to South Carolina State and Claflin College and was fast emerging as a center of civil rights activism in the state and region. In the summer of 1955, fifty-seven adults signed...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 233-282)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-316)
  16. Index
    (pp. 317-336)