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

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

1
From Protest to Incorporation:
A Framework for Analysis of
Civil Rights Movement Outcomes

In 1905 W.E.B. DuBois and his colleagues issued the Niagara Manifesto, initiating the modern civil rights movement. Four year later the NAACP was created as the movement's principal organizational vehicle. Fifty-nine years later the civil rights movement was over, its basic goals and objectives having been achieved with the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Two years before, in 1966, factionalism began to overtake the movement as the civil rights establishment was challenged, first by the advocates of black power and then by larger, more diverse factions of radicals, revolutionaries and black nationalists. For a brief period the center of gravity of the movement shifted sharply toward radicalism and nationalism. But by 1980 the radical wing of the movement was in disarray and retreat, and the historic black freedom struggle was largely coopted into routine institutions and processes of American political life. In this chapter I develop a framework and model to analyze these transformations in the nature and character of the modern black freedom struggle.

Although there is a substantial social science literature on social movements, 1 sadly, as one recent review concludes, "our models for understanding the emergence of new social movements and their spread and outcomes are woefully inadequate."2 This is in part a function of the division of labor in the social sciences between sociologists who focus on movements and political scientists who focus on institutional politics (interest groups, parties, elections and legislatures), leaving relatively unexplored the nexus between these two processes of politics. As the sociologist McAdams puts it in his book on the origins of the civil rights movement, there is an "absence of any real dialogue between political scientists and sociologists. . . . political scientists have traditionally conceptualized power almost exclusively in institutional terms. Accordingly they have failed to adequately explain or take account of the impact of social movements on the institutionalized polit

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