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Mar 9, 2023 - Apr 6, 2023

Rethinking Mid-20th Century Black Freedom Struggle

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The popular memory of the 20th century Black freedom struggle in the United States, as trotted out every winter between Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend and the end of Black History Month contains kernels of important truths, but is deeply flawed, perpetuating a narrative of a limited struggle for legal change in the American South, carried out by courageous but faceless masses lined up behind a handful of (largely male) charismatic leaders and broadly supported by the political mainstream. As Julian Bond, a former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) leader who served as the head of the NAACP in his later years, summed up this gross mischaracterization of the movement: “Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, and the white kids came down and saved the day.” This course will offer participants a window into the 20+ years of vibrant historical scholarship that has fundamentally changed historians’ understandings of the chronology, demographics, geography, goals, and scope of the mid-20th century civil rights movement. We will explore the movement from the bottom up, examining grassroots struggles for equality on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line; highlighting less well known stories of women, young people, and local leaders; providing new angles of approach to understanding Black Power; and probing the connections between domestic civil rights campaigns and international events such as World War II, the Cold War, and the collapse of colonialism.





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