We Have No Leaders: African Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era

By Robert C. Smith; Ronald W. Walters | Go to book overview

Preface

The civil rights movement, what I refer to more generically as the Afro-American freedom struggle, is one of the most thoroughly researched and carefully documented events in the twentieth-century history of the United States. Much of this work focuses on the origins and evolution of the movement, dealing with important individuals, organizations, strategies and events from the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 to the Selma voting rights demonstrations in 1965. There are also studies of the executive and legislative decision-making processes that resulted in the passage of the major civil rights acts of the period. And there are studies of the implementation of these laws, especially the Voting Rights Act and Titles VI and VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This book takes a broader approach, examining the processes and consequences of the institutionalization of the civil rights movement; of the shifting of the central dynamic of black politics from protests in the streets to the corridors of power in Washington and elsewhere. It has been twenty-five years since this process got under way; thus it is appropriate to stand back and take stock of what happened, why, and with what consequences for the historic struggle of the African people for freedom and equality in the United States. This is the principal purpose of this volume, to present for the first time a systematic and comprehensive study of the institutionalization of the civil rights movement.

The book has three major objectives. First, to specify and apply to the civil rights movement a theoretical framework for understanding the outcomes of protest movements in terms of processes of institutionalization, incorporation and cooptation. Second, to present a detailed history or chronicle of black politics in the United States during the last twenty-five years. Third, to integrate analysis of the black movement into an understanding of the political and policy contexts in which the problem of race is dealt with in the American democracy. The book is divided into five parts. Part One includes one chapter, which lays out a general theory or framework for analysis of social movement outcomes and then applies it to the civil rights movement. This chapter also includes a model of political incorporation that is used to analyze post civil rights era black politics in terms of issue agendas, political

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