The Rev. Will Campbell was forced out of his position as director of religious life at the University of Mississippi in 1956 because of his calls for integration. He escorted Black children through a hostile mob in 1957 to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. He was the only white person that was invited to be part of the group that founded Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He helped integrate Nashville’s lunch counters and organize the Freedom Rides. But Campbell was also, despite a slew of death threats he received from white segregationists, an unofficial chaplain to the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
Civil rights movement
“A More Beautiful and Terrible History” is a critique of what its author derides as the ascendant fable of the civil rights movement—the black protests that challenged the racial status quo between the 1950s and the 1970s. Brooklyn College professor Jeanne Theoharis contends that influential shapers of public memory have attempted with considerable success to whitewash and truncate recollections of the movement. The culprits include academics, journalists and politicians. What they have done, she charges, is depict a movement devoid of unsettling militance, with narrow aims that were accomplished on account of an attentive citizenry that only needed to glimpse injustice in order to respond nobly. The fable, she argues, is complacently triumphalist, offering a distorted mirror that misleadingly celebrates observers.
By Adam Sanchez for Zinn Education Project - Fifty years ago this week, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chairperson Stokely Carmichael made the famous call for “Black Power.” Carmichael’s speech came in the midst of the “March Against Fear,” a walk from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, to encourage African Americans to use their newly won right to vote. But while almost every middle and high school student learns about the Civil Rights Movement, they rarely learn about this march—or the related struggles that continued long after the Voting Rights Act.
By Mark Engler and Paul Engler for Tom Dispatch - A recent article in the Atlantic summed up this perspective with the tagline, "At this polarized moment, it's incremental change or nothing." This view, however, leaves out a critical driver of social transformation. It fails to account for what might be the most important engine of progress: grassroots movements by citizens demanding change. Social change is seldom either as incremental or predictable as many insiders suggest. Every once in a while, an outburst of resistance seems to break open a world of possibility, creating unforeseen opportunities for transformation.
By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca for Zinn Education Project - This month marks the 45th anniversary of a dramatic moment in U.S. history. On March 8, 1971—while Muhammad Ali was fighting Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden, and as millions sat glued to their TVs watching the bout unfold—a group of peace activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole every document they could find. Keith Forsyth, one of the people who broke in, explained on Democracy Now!: I was spending as much time as I could with organizing against the war, but I had become very frustrated with legal protest.
By Staff of The Chicago Reporter - In September 1965 a dozen or so members of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s southern field staff moved into the West Side Christian Parish’s Project House in the heart of Chicago’s Near West Side, joining other volunteers already living there. Black and white, male and female, most of them still in their early twenties, they had already been tested by civil rights struggles in the South. It was just weeks after passage of the Voting Rights Act and six months after Selma—where civil rights demonstrators had overcome brutal beatings to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and march to Montgomery, Alabama, in the struggle to obtain voting rights in the South.
By George Lakey for Waging Nonviolence - When it comes to action, we are pulled by two tendencies that seem compatible but in practice are often in tension. We want our movements to be rational – that is, to strategize well, use resources efficiently, and stay nimble. Yet, on the other hand, we may also want the products of emotion: to experience solidarity, to let empathy connect us with those who haven’t joined us, and to tap the righteous anger that goes with caring about injustice. In my lifetime social movements have increasingly turned to trainers to increase their learning curve and make actions more effective. However, a movement’s wish to draw on the power of both rationality and emotion poses a challenge for trainers, who are influenced by middle-class bias and traditional education. Class and the academy push trainers to privilege rationality and ignore the wellspring of emotion. Fortunately, action reasserts the need for both, and training is learning to respond. The movement story in the United States shows the tension, and begins with the civil rights movement of the 1960s.