After the Dream

After the Dream: Black and White Southerners since 1965

Timothy J. Minchin
John A. Salmond
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jcgd9
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  • Book Info
    After the Dream
    Book Description:

    Martin Luther King's 1965 address from Montgomery, Alabama, the center of much racial conflict at the time and the location of the well-publicized bus boycott a decade earlier, is often considered by historians to be the culmination of the civil rights era in American history. In his momentous speech, King declared that segregation was "on its deathbed" and that the movement had already achieved significant milestones. Although the civil rights movement had won many battles in the struggle for racial equality by the mid-1960s, including legislation to guarantee black voting rights and to desegregate public accommodations, the fight to implement the new laws was just starting. In reality, King's speech in Montgomery represented a new beginning rather than a conclusion to the movement, a fact that King acknowledged in the address.

    After the Dream: Black and White Southerners since 1965 begins where many histories of the civil rights movement end, with King's triumphant march from the iconic battleground of Selma to Montgomery. Timothy J. Minchin and John Salmond focus on events in the South following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. After the Dream examines the social, economic, and political implications of these laws in the decades following their passage, discussing the empowerment of black southerners, white resistance, accommodation and acceptance, and the nation's political will. The book also provides a fascinating history of the often-overlooked period of race relations during the presidential administrations of Ford, Carter, Reagan, and both George H. W. and George W. Bush. Ending with the election of President Barack Obama, this study will influence contemporary historiography on the civil rights movement.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2988-4
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    On March 25, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a crowd of more than twenty-five thousand onlookers from the imposing steps of the Alabama state capitol. As he returned to the city where Rosa Parks had precipitated the iconic bus boycott, the southern preacher turned national leader celebrated the wider demise of the Jim Crow system. Even in Alabama, where so many of the fiercest battles had been waged, segregation was, King proclaimed, “on its deathbed.” Building to a rousing climax, he declared that southern blacks were well on the way to achieving a society that was “at peace...

  5. 1 Historic Progress: Public Accommodations and Voting Rights in the Johnson Years
    (pp. 11-33)

    In the Johnson years, civil rights campaigners faced many challenges. By the summer of 1965, the United States was deeply embroiled in the war in Vietnam, a conflict that drew attention and funding away from racial issues. Just a week after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, a brutal race riot in the Watts district of Los Angeles left thirty-four people dead and caused millions of dollars in property damage. Smaller riots soon broke out in Chicago, Philadelphia, and other northern cities, and they would be repeated over the next few summers. Reacting to these televised disturbances, many...

  6. 2 “Token Beginnings”: The Battle to Desegregate Southern Schools and Workplaces, 1965–1968
    (pp. 34-57)

    The Johnson administration’s record was not so impressive when it came to desegregating southern schools and workplaces. In these areas, white resistance was greater, and the civil rights legislation was less effective. Rather than moving quickly, the administration took its time in establishing the new EEOC and drawing up school desegregation guidelines. The lack of progress was also related to weak enforcement; the new EEOC lacked the authority to compel violators to change, while HEW rarely used its powers to cut off funds from recalcitrant southern school districts. The implementation of Title VI proved to be particularly difficult; as the...

  7. 3 A Fragmented Crusade? The Civil Rights Struggle in the Aftermath of the King Assassination, 1968–1970
    (pp. 58-80)

    In the early evening of April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was felled by a single shot as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Traveling at a speed of 2,670 feet per second, the bullet was fired by James Earl Ray, an escaped convict and Klan sympathizer who had rented a room at a local flophouse. Powerful enough to floor a rhinoceros, the 150-grain bullet ripped through the preacher’s jugular vein, throwing him onto his back. The thirty-nine-year-old was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where a team of doctors tried desperately to save him. Within an...

  8. 4 Defiance and Compliance: The Breakdown of Freedom of Choice in the South’s Schools
    (pp. 81-106)

    In February 1970, the mayor of Trussville, Alabama, wrote President Nixon to let him know how local people felt about federal orders to integrate their schools. “In all my experience, in war and in peace,” explained Roland Crabbe, “I have never known the people of this section to be so disturbed and upset—all arising out of the unfair, unjust school desegregation policies which are being forced down the throats of the Southerners during this second Reconstruction period.” The opposition to the assignment of children to achieve racial balance, added Crabbe, was “fixed, deep seated, and immovable.” He urged Nixon...

  9. 5 The Busing Years: School Desegregation in the Wake of Swann
    (pp. 107-127)

    On April 20, 1971, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the landmarkSwanncase. Originally prompted by the efforts of the black missionary Darius Swann to send his six-year-old son to an all-white school, the case went to the Supreme Court after the school board appealed the district court’s busing order. At stake were decisive issues about how far the courts could go in devising techniques to dismantle the South’s dual school system. After extensive deliberations, the nine justices decided that the city of Charlotte was clearly practicing de jure segregation. Not wanting to contradictBrown,they ruled that...

  10. 6 Home Has Changed: Southern Race Relations in the Early 1970s
    (pp. 128-144)

    Away from the classroom, black southerners made some significant gains in the early 1970s. The rapid integration of public facilities prompted many to move to the region, reversing a pattern of outmigration that dated back to World War I. In these years, African Americans also emerged as a decisive political force; in 1971, for instance, the Harvard psychologist Thomas Pettigrew went as far as to call the black surge into southern politics “a miracle, literally a miracle.” While the economic picture was mixed, southern blacks certainly made some progress, and the media asserted that a black middle class was emerging....

  11. 7 Paving the Way for Full Participation: Civil Rights in the Ford Years
    (pp. 145-167)

    At 10 a.m. on July 1, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford rose to address the NAACP’s sixty-sixth annual convention in Washington, DC. The new president received hearty applause as he praised America’s oldest civil rights group as a “unique organization” with a “distinguished” history. “The NAACP,” he declared, “has a proud record that spans 65 years with markers of achievement in racial equality unmatched by any other organization.” Terming himself president of “all the people,” Ford assured delegates that he was keen to establish a dialogue with the African American community. While stressing that great progress had been made in...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. 8 Mixed Outcomes: Civil Rights in the Carter Years
    (pp. 168-186)

    During Carter’s presidency, the civil rights movement certainly made some important gains. Known for his integrity, Carter symbolized how some southern whites had become more sympathetic to the black cause. Anxious to try and heal racial divisions, the new president met regularly with African American leaders and identified with their work. “I think,” he commented in April 1978, “we have a long way to go to repair the damage that has been done in the past by discrimination.” Heading a growing movement to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday, Carter credited King with lifting “the yoke of segregation...

  14. 9 “No Substantial Progress”: Blacks, the Economy, and Racial Polarization in the Late 1970s
    (pp. 187-205)

    Nowhere were the disappointments of the Carter years more apparent than in the economic arena. Throughout the Carter presidency, the economic downturn had a harsh impact on African Americans, who remained vulnerable to layoffs. As one black leader commented in 1979, “When this economy sneezes, we get pneumonia.” Witnessing these developments, civil rights groups focused heavily on economic issues and demanded help. Unlike Ford, Carter was responsive to demands for full employment, yet his efforts to bring it about were largely unsuccessful, frustrating an expectant African American community.¹

    In the South, the economic gap between blacks and whites failed to...

  15. 10 The Reagan Counterrevolution
    (pp. 206-236)

    “I am still trying to descend from Cloud 9, Strommie Boy [Senator Thurmond], will never descend,” wrote an exultant Harry Dent shortly after Ronald Reagan’s election triumph. Thurmond’s sense of high elation typified the reaction of much of the white South to the victory. It signaled an end to the travails of the years since 1965, a slowing of the pace of unwelcomed social change. Above all, it surely meant an end to busing.¹

    Meanwhile, as the demoralized Carter administration struggled into its final days, those responsible for implementing civil rights policy worked frantically to complete what unfinished business they...

  16. 11 From Bush to Bush: The Complexities of Civil Rights
    (pp. 237-253)

    “When the subject is civil rights,” wrote the journalist Steven A. Holmes in 1991, there were “two George Bushes.” There was the George Bush who told a cheering group of black supporters in town for his inauguration that King’s dream of equality would be “a vision for his tenure,” who talked movingly of the “moral stain of segregation” and of his determination to cleanse the nation of its last vestiges. There was the George Bush who appointed the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, and who donated half the proceeds of his autobiography to...

  17. 12 The Aftermath: From History to Memory
    (pp. 254-272)

    When Josephine Boyd Bradley returned to Grimsley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina, on March 30, 2006, the reception she received could scarcely have been more different than that which greeted her when she had first nervously entered its doors in September 1957. Then, as the only African American in a student body of two thousand, she was the victim of constant racial slurs, physical intimidation, and studied insults from students and faculty. Forced to take her meals in the library, she endured the torment, partly, she said, owing to the support of three white students who befriended her, themselves...

  18. 13 Poverty and Progress: Four Decades of Change
    (pp. 273-299)

    No southern State government has ever seriously considered establishing a body like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a means of examining the crimes and injustices of the segregation years, of giving victims and their families a chance to confront those who had abused them, and of, thus, achieving a degree of surcease. Some have argued that the atonement trials served that purpose, but the comparison goes only so far. A key aspect of the South African procedure was to give those who murdered and maimed during the apartheid decades the chance to repent, to apologize directly to those...

  19. Postscript
    (pp. 300-304)

    The narrative in this book ends in December 2007 and, thus, does not cover the epochal presidential election campaign of 2008 or the unfolding story of Barack Obama’s presidency. Yet nothing is of more significance to its narrative than his triumph. The myriad commentators who saw his accession to power as the fruition of Martin Luther King’s dream were essentially correct. There were many reasons—a collapsing economy, an unpopular war, concern over the country’s polarization, massive demographic change, a president who conspicuously failed to lead when it mattered most—why 2008 was a Democratic year. Nevertheless, the election of...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 305-376)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 377-392)
  22. Index
    (pp. 393-405)