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African-Americans and the Quest for Civil Rights, 1900-1990

Copyright Date: 1991
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 338
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  • Book Info
    African-Americans and the Quest for Civil Rights, 1900-1990
    Book Description:

    In this lavishly illustrated volume, Sean Dennis Cashman surveys the history of civil rights in twentieth-century America. The book charts the principal course of civil rights against the dramatic backdrop of two world wars, the Great Depression, the affluent society of the postwar world, the cultural and social agitation of the 1960s, and the emergence of the new conservatism of the 1970s and 1980s.Cashman describes the profound upheaval that African-Americans experienced as they moved from the outright racism of the South through the Great Migration northward from 1915, and sets the contribution of African-American leaders within their historical context: Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, A. Philip Randolph, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and many others. The work also describes the shift in emphasis in the movement from legal cases brought before the courts to mass protest movements and, later, the change in direction from civil rights to Black Power and, later, Pan-Africanism. Far more than just a history of civil rights leaders, this book explains how the achievements of African-American writers, artists, singers, and athletes contributed to a wider understanding of the humanity and culture of black Americans. Cashman details, among others, the achievements of the Harlem Renaissance, the films of Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson, and the works of Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison. Written in an engaging style, the text is accompanied by a wealth of illustrations, some well known, others in print for the first time.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2359-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xv)

    • 1 Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm
      (pp. 3-46)

      The story of African-Americans and their quest for civil rights in the twentieth century, the subject of this book, is a story with deep resonances. It is about nothing less than the transformation of African-American citizens’ place in American society—constitutional, social, and cultural—and it tells us something of the transformations white society had to ask of itself.

      In a century where one of the primary themes of art has been the relationship of the individual and society, the continuously shifting fortunes of African-American citizens in American society have proved fertile subjects for argument and discussion. Moreover, the experience...

    • 2 Not in the Mood
      (pp. 47-83)

      Following the Wall Street crash of the great bull market on the New York stock exchange in autumn 1929, America entered a devastating and extended economic depression that lasted for a decade.

      The Great Depression was an even worse catastrophe for the African-American community than for the white. Of the total population of 123,077,000 in 1930, 12,518,000 were African-Americans or nonwhite. Of the population of 37,858,000 of the Census South, 9,362,000 were African-American. Thus, whereas the ratio of African-Americans to whites across the country as a whole was about one in ten, in the South it was one in four....


    • 3 Made Visible
      (pp. 87-120)

      Ralph Ellison’s novelInvisible Man(1952) captured the imagination of a generation in part because it prophesied something of the metamorphosis of African-Americans who were themselves at various crossroads on their journey to full citizenship. It was W. E. B. Du Bois who had first discerned “the sense of looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.”Invisible Mannot only captured this sensation but also fielded a hero who could transcend sociological, visual, and psychological imprisonment.

      Invisible Manis a confessional, picaresque novel in the tradition of slave narratives in which an unnamed protagonist takes a journey through...

    • 4 “Black and White Together, We Shall Overcome”: Martin Luther King and the Emergence of the Civil Rights Movement
      (pp. 121-148)

      InAn American Dilemma(1944) Gunnar Myrdal wrote, “Potentially the Negro church is undoubtedly a power institution. It has the Negro masses organized and, if the church bodies decided to do so, they could line the Negroes behind a program.” The African-American church had held considerable authority in the African-American community since the Civil War. Both Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois had commented on its importance. Writing in 1903, Du Bois called it “the social center of Negro life in the United States, and the most characteristic expression of African character.” The African-American church also provided...

    • 5 A Dream beyond the New Frontier
      (pp. 149-183)

      In his campaign for the presidency in 1960, Democratic candidate John Kennedy spoke out against the lack of equality for African-Americans whose votes he then garnered by a symbolic act of assistance.

      In October 1960 Martin Luther King and fifty-one other people were arrested for taking part in a mass sit-in, asking for service in the restaurant of Rich’s department store in Atlanta, Georgia. However, after all the others had been released, King was held in jail on the purely technical offense of not having a current Georgia driving license. He was then given a four months’ prison sentence. This...

    • 6 Civil Rights and Black Power
      (pp. 184-215)

      After almost a hundred years of faltering progress in civil rights, African-American protest underwent in the space of only six short years a momentous shift in emphasis from civil rights to black power. The new form of protest was characterized by a change from nonviolent, peaceful protest to violence and riots that some commentators characterize as African-American uprisings. Various civil rights organizations reflected the change. The advocates of nonviolent resistance lost control of the leadership and those whites who were also leaders in the civil rights movement were displaced by African-Americans. The first white volunteers were often affluent children of...

    • 7 Chaos Is Come Again
      (pp. 216-241)

      With the inauguration of Richard Nixon as president in 1969, the sympathy African-American rights had attracted in the Kennedy and Johnson years seemed to evaporate. Nixon’s hard-hearted approach to student demonstrations and civil rights activists was designed to exploit the white backlash against violent protests. He made it clear that he would not actively promote the doctrine of racial equality or the programs of the Great Society. Nevertheless, Richard Nixon did promote some advances for civil rights by way of job opportunities, including goals and timetables for all companies doing business with the federal government, as well as continuing to...


    • 8 Political Access
      (pp. 245-276)

      In the 1970s and 1980s the civil rights movement still had a considerable role to play in American politics—southern, northern, and federal. Many of its bases of support were the same as in the days when it first emerged to the fore in the political arena.

      Whereas the loss of momentum after 1968 can be interpreted as a loosening of the fabric of the civil rights movement, with many historians, such as Harvard Sitkoff inThe Struggle for Black Equality(1981), seeing the death of Martin Luther King as the death of hopes for the movement, its main achievement...

    • 9 The Moving Finger
      (pp. 277-298)

      Whatever the final verdict of history on the achievements of civil rights and black power, there is little question that the civil rights and black power movements helped stimulate another renaissance of African-American stories and novels. This was partly because a new generation of writers was encouraged by the extent and inventiveness of African-American protest and was gaining confidence that its novels would excite and entertain a new generation of readers. It was partly because, from the commercial viewpoint of publishers, African-American writing became ever more fashionable. As Chester Himes observed in his autobiographyThe Quality of Hurt(1972), “The...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 299-308)
  9. Index
    (pp. 309-322)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 323-323)