From November 2008-March 2009, the LCRM project conducted an online survey of university faculty with a broad interest in civil rights scholarship. The survey was considered a pilot questionnaire to gauge broad patterns of interest in a variety of possible project outcomes and publishing priorities. While the respondents were primarily historians, a few were from other disciplines including women’s studies, political science, sociology, communications, and English. Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey. A brief summary of the survey results follows. Continue reading ‘Results from the LCRM Survey’
Richard Kahlenberg reviews Thomas Sugrue’s Sweet Land of Liberty in the current issue of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas (free registration required).
Kahlenberg challenges Surgrue on a number of points, including the influence of resources (as opposed ot governance) on the success of community schools; the debate over compensation for blacks in an effort to balance centuries of discrimination and brutality; and the reaction of whites, some of whom were liberals who disagreed with black separatists and some of whom were simply segregationists.
Kahlenberg also suggests that Sugrue’s claim that, as he puts it, “the political costs of embracing Black Power are negligible” is not sustained by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. After all, Obama distanced himself from the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose sometimes separatist rhetoric spelled political trouble for Obama’s campaign. (Here, Kahlenberg claims that John McCain “trounced” Obama among southern whites but ran even with Obama among whites elsewhere. That claim is false (see the Midwest), or at least minimizes the differences among southern states–overall Obama did better among whites than Kerry in 2004 (see here), and the trouncing took place only in four southern states. Not to mention leaps in support in newly blue states in the Upper/Middle South, like North Carolina.)
This handy map shows Obama’s share of the white vote.
There is much more food for thought–and points for long civil rights movement scholars to take issue with–in Kahlenberg’s article. Take his assumptions about Martin Luther King’s “emphasis on school desegregation” (see Michael Honey’s Going Down Jericho Road for a more nuanced vision of King’s economic justice activism in Memphis, for example), or the bright line he draws between a Northern Civil Rights Movement and a Southern Civil Rights Movement.
This conversation will continue. Hear more “dangerously wrong” (that’s Kahlenberg on Sugrue) ideas at our keynote address and throughout the conference.
At Cliopatria, Ralph Luker recommends Robert J. Norrell’s Chronicle of Higher Education article, “Reshaping the Image of Booker T. Washington.” (The article may available to subscribers only.) Norrell uses the article to reflect on his new biography of Washington, Up From History, in which he revises the understanding of Washington as an accommodationist who blamed blacks for their own poverty, and whose low expectations stood in marked contrast to W.E.B. DuBois’s virtuous calls for education and activism.
This contrast was largely of DuBois’s making; DuBois spent decades after Washington’s death undermining his rival’s reputation. Rather, Norrell argues, Washington protested segregation and discrimination (though often in secret), actively supported black education, and attacked negative public portrayals of blacks. Norrell claims that Washington’s “pragmatic and stealthy” activism found little favor among historians and activists in the 1960s, and has always trouble gaining traction among Americans, who prefer their leaders a bit more gung-ho.
Washington is certainly due for reconsideration, especially given the way in which he and DuBois are often positioned against one another in the classroom–a juxtaposition which usually takes place on DuBois’s terms. He is not, however, on the Long Civil Rights Movement conference program, an omission which Luker suggests means that “BTW as Barack Obama just didn’t have the right ring to the program’s organizers.” Ouch.
The conference program is not, of course, the final arbiter of who is in and who is out of the long civil rights movement. It is a question, though, that we hope panelists and attendees will ask themselves and each other over the course of the weekend.
LCRM keynote speaker Thomas J. Sugrue is a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for history for his Sweet Land of Liberty. Other civil rights-related nominees include books on Ida Wells Barnett, Eugene Debs, the war on terror, and a dark, dark, dark horse candidate, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, by Barton Gellman. (h/t Mary Dudziak)
Sugrue will deliver the address, “Jim Crow’s Last Stand: Fighting Inequality Up North and Down South” at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History on Friday, April 3, at 7:30pm. More here.
The University of Tennessee at Martin recently held a seven-day civil rights conference which included a Freedom Riders Panel at which former Freedom Riders discussed their experiences. One panelist dated the beginning of the sit-in movement to 1960, placing it in the Nashville area; another claimed the civil rights movement began in 1944, when a Virginia woman refused to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man. Read a bit more about the conference here and see what you missed here.
Peter Brown shares some relatively bland observations (“the reaction it would provoke could also be major factors”) about the approaching arguments before the California Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Prop 8, the referendum that banned same sex marriage in that state. Brown mulls a bit over the issue’s relationship to the civil rights movement’s legal victories of the 1950s and 1960s, when courts countermanded against public will to roll back Jim Crow. But the law may not protect gay men and women from discrimination in the same way that it protects African Americans, for example, complicating the court’s role in addressing Prop 8.
Brown probably knows, though, that civil rights issues don’t tend to fare well at the polls. One study found that in a thirty-five year period, nearly 80% of civil rights initiatives put to a vote failed. These defeats were felt acutely in the gay community, which sees its rights put to popular vote with some frequency. (Gamble, Putting Civil Rights to a Popular Vote, Am. J. of Pol. Sci., vol. 41, no. 1)
Brown’s column is worth a glance, if only because it is thought-provoking, perhaps more so than anything for Brown’s use of language. He uses the words “homosexual” and “gay” interchangeably, both as nouns and adjectives. GLAAD considers the word “homosexual” to be offensive, at least in part because it has been manipulated by anti-gay bigots to suggest that gays are sick. According to GLAAD, the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Washington Post all restrict the use of the word. Even the Washington Times limits the use of the word, “except in clinical references.” What about the Wall Street Journal? We saw recently that swapping the words “gay” and “homosexual” can have unexpected results…