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Sitting In and Speaking Out

Sitting In and Speaking Out: Student Movements in the American South, 1960�1970

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 380
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  • Book Info
    Sitting In and Speaking Out
    Book Description:

    In Sitting In and Speaking Out, Jeffrey A. Turner examines student movements in the South to grasp the nature of activism in the region during the turbulent 1960s. Turner argues that the story of student activism is too often focused on national groups like Students for a Democratic Society and events at schools like Columbia University and the University of California at Berkeley. Examining the activism of black and white students, he shows that the South responded to national developments but that the response had its own trajectory-one that was rooted in race. Turner looks at such events as the initial desegregation of campuses; integration's long aftermath, as students learned to share institutions; the Black Power movement; and the antiwar movement. Escalating protest against the Vietnam War tested southern distinctiveness, says Turner. The South's tendency toward hawkishness impeded antiwar activism, but once that activism arrived, it was-as in other parts of the country-oriented toward events at national and global scales. Nevertheless, southern student activism retained some of its core characteristics. Even in the late 1960s, southern protesters' demands tended toward reform, often eschewing calls to revolution increasingly heard elsewhere. Based on primary research at more than twenty public and private institutions in the deep and upper South, including historically black schools, Sitting In and Speaking Out is a wide-ranging and sensitive portrait of southern students navigating a remarkably dynamic era.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3759-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-12)

    IN MAY 1970, Jerry Rubin, the infamous Yippie activist, delivered a speech at the University of Alabama. By then, Rubin was a national figure, admired by some, reviled by others. The University of Alabama also had claims on the national consciousness—as the scene of the segregationist Governor George C. Wallace’s audacious 1963 attempt to block the school’s integration and as the home of the Crimson Tide, Bear Bryant’s football powerhouse. Neither, however, meant much to campus progressives who rejected hidebound traditions and sought to move the university and the state toward their vision of racial progress—those, in short,...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Southern Campuses in 1960
    (pp. 13-42)

    TRENT LOTT LATER RECALLED being overwhelmed—“in the thrall of the colorful pageant that is Ole Miss”—by the campus of the University of Mississippi. It was the fall of 1959. He was a freshman from Pascagoula, in southern Mississippi, and had considered attending Tulane University in New Orleans before choosing the University of Mississippi because he preferred its law school curriculum. The decision had been a practical one, but the emotional connection developed almost immediately after his September arrival. Rush week, when fraternities and sororities sorted through and selected or rejected prospective members, had already begun, and Lott decided...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Nonviolent Direct Action and the Rise of a Southern Student Movement
    (pp. 43-79)

    THE TENSION BEFORE a demonstration was palpable, enough to make it difficult for a student to concentrate on her professor, on the day’s material. Looming in the near future was another sit-in and the possibility of jail, violence, or both. These were heavy burdens for someone in late adolescence, especially when she tried to juggle the demands of a movement with the more mundane but no less important responsibilities of a college student. Some observers suggested that students had less to lose than “adults” did by participating in demonstrations, but the costs could still be great: parental disappointment, the shame...

  7. CHAPTER THREE White Students, the Campus, and Desegregation
    (pp. 80-117)

    IN THE EARLY DAYS of the Atlanta student movement, Constance Curry, Southern Project director for the U.S. National Student Association (NSA), tried to recruit students from Atlanta’s white colleges for sit-ins. “Somehow or other I scraped up a white representative from every college, even Georgia Tech,” she later recalled. “They only came to one meeting because they were terrified. . . . [T]hey took one look at [Morehouse student] Lonnie King and all those students and never said a word and went home that night and we never heard of ’em again.”¹ Curry’s failed effort was not an isolated event....

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Building a Southern Movement
    (pp. 118-135)

    IN OCTOBER 1963, Anne Braden was wondering why Samuel C. Shirah Jr., the campus traveler for the White Students Project operated by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was late with an article for the Southern Patriot on the reaction of Birmingham-Southern College students to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing on 15 September. Perhaps, she mused, Shirah had not contacted her because he was disappointed with the response he had received. Shirah might have believed that Braden, editor of the Southern Patriot and field secretary for the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), would be disappointed in his inability to...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE From the Community to the Campus, from University Reform to Student Power
    (pp. 136-164)

    IN THE SPRING of 1965, Berkeley Free Speech Movement (FSM) veteran Steven Weissman toured the South. He visited twenty-seven colleges in ten southern states, and twenty-five hundred students heard him talk about the recent demonstrations at Berkeley and the idea of “university reform,” a phrase that was beginning to gain currency. Sponsored by the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC), Weissman’s tour represented an effort to export the Berkeley movement to southern campuses. “Berkeley came to unc Sunday night,” the University of North Carolina’s Daily Tar Heel reported. “Free Speech Movement leader Steve Weissman excited wild applause from a small audience,...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER SIX Student Power and Black Power at the South’s Negro Colleges
    (pp. 165-199)

    THE SIT-INS of the early 1960s opened the black campus up to criticism. When the presidents of these institutions responded to the threat or reality of student-led demonstrations by attempting to limit student and faculty involvement, they invited questions about the limits of academic freedom. From this opening grew a more detailed critique of the black college or university. In many respects, this critique resembled the calls for university reform and student power that developed on predominantly white campuses. The South’s black colleges and universities often maintained social rules that were, if anything, more restrictive than those on white campuses....

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Black Power on White Campuses
    (pp. 200-224)

    ON CAMPUSES throughout the United States, black students and racial issues were central to the student unrest of the late 1960s. But racial issues were, if anything, more important in a region lurching toward a new, postsegregation society. What would integration mean in institutions for whose whiteness some southerners had so recently been willing to fight? What would it mean to black students who increasingly rallied around the cause of Black Power? In some respects, change came rapidly to now desegregating universities. Scenes that would have seemed unimaginable in the late 1950s occurred with regularity a decade later. At Vanderbilt,...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT The War in the South
    (pp. 225-262)

    STUDENT ACTIVISM reached its second zenith in the South in the two years that preceded May 1970. On most of the region’s major public and private university campuses, activists forced at least one dramatic confrontation between early 1968 and the end of the 1969–70 academic year. These confrontations involved large numbers of students—often hundreds and sometimes even thousands. The issues that resonated during these demonstrations varied. The autonomy of students as masters of their own private lives and active participants in their own educational lives provided mobilizing issues on a number of campuses. And racial issues loomed especially...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Southern Campuses at Decade’s End
    (pp. 263-284)

    IN FEBRUARY 1968, Joseph P. Long was a disappointed freshman. Long had come to Vanderbilt from Springfield, Tennessee, some twenty miles north of Nashville, to study mechanical engineering in hopes of one day becoming an astronaut. A decade before, the “avowed Southern conservative” probably would have felt quite comfortable on the Nashville campus. But Long found Vanderbilt too liberal and too politically apathetic. While watching news coverage of Vietnam in his dorm, Long heard fellow students laugh or “seem oblivious” to events. These were dark days for American involvement in Southeast Asia. The Tet Offensive, which began on 31 January,...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 285-320)
    (pp. 321-340)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 341-347)