Dream and Reality: The Modern Black Struggle for Freedom and Equality

By Jeannine Swift | Go to book overview

tion, began to change radically the character of the Black Movement. Once again the dynamic we have been observing unfolded. The victory in Birmingham appears to have significantly extended the sense of power (efficacy) among the black population. This change is manifested in several ways: many more blacks became involved in civil rights activity across the country; the scope of their demands grew significantly; the boldness of their projects grew ( Birmingham preceded by a year the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project); opinion polls showed that blacks were more willing to take risks, more willing to subject themselves to arrest; pressures grew on the Black Muslims who had talked tough, but did not participate in the movement. It was not long before Malcolm X split from the Muslims over just this issue. Birmingham made a qualitative difference in the Black Movement and gave new strength to political currents in the Black Movement that King bitterly opposed.( 35)

At the same time, white brutality grew. It embittered blacks at the very time that they were developing a greater sense of efficacy. White violence did not stop once blacks had won their victory. Bombs were planted at the home of King's brother and at the motel where the movement had been headquartered. The black population of Birmingham responded with the first of the urban riots, in 1963. They threw stones and bricks and bottles at police and drew their knives in anger; they set fires and looted stores. This response and a general melee that King's lieutenants could neither control nor abate prefigured what was yet to come in the nation's black ghettos. No one was yet aware that black riots would become the most widespread form of political expression. The layers of people that King had tapped in Birmingham--that he had had to tap--went beyond his methods. These people, and those like them, would face a revision of black goals as they began to make their social weight felt.


CONCLUSION

This quick review illustrates something of the rich tapestry created by the intersection of movements and organizations. It is evident that organizations were crucial to advancing the Civil Rights Movement. It is also evident that the organizations that emerged were, at least in part, a response to upheavals that were not simply organizationally controlled but that emerged from a changing black consciousness and a new sense of efficacy. The best way to understand this movement is to see the contributions both of spontaneity and of organization, each playing a role which the other augmented. Emphasis on only one of these moments of a process distorts our understanding of the development of a social movement by missing the point precisely that it is a process.

Changing black consciousness and political power brought about acts which challenged white supremacy. These acts led to the creation of ad hoc organizations in several cities (like the Montgomery Improvement Association). The victories of these organizations broadened the base of the movement and made it possible to contemplate another organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to further extend the reach of the movement; they further changed mass consciousness. The struggles of the fifties, as well as organizational connections, helped to stimulate the youth movement of the sixties. The movement crafted its own organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. These organizations in their turn pressed forward the movement which in its turn put renewed pressure on and created new opportunities for the civil rights organizations.

The Birmingham demonstrations best illustrate this dynamic. In part, they were a response to the defeat in Albany. They were also mindful of growing black impatience with southern intransigence. The hammering of Malcolm X against nonviolent direct action in general and Dr. King in particular may also have increased the pressure on King. In

-39-

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Dream and Reality: The Modern Black Struggle for Freedom and Equality
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1: A Tale of Two and One-Half Decades 3
  • Notes 11
  • 2: A Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. 13
  • 3: Rediscovering Women Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement 19
  • Conclusion 26
  • Notes 26
  • 4: The Civil Rights Movement: Upheaval and Organization 29
  • Conclusion 39
  • Notes 40
  • 5: Blacks and the New South: Civil Rights in the Eighties 43
  • Introduction 43
  • Conclusion 49
  • Notes 50
  • 6: Improving the Plight of Black, Inner-City Youths: Whose Responsibility? 53
  • Notes 65
  • 7: Racial Attitudes of Black and White Adolescents Before and After Desegregation 69
  • Conclusion 73
  • Notes 74
  • 8: The Ills of Integration: A Black Perspective 77
  • Introduction 77
  • Notes 84
  • 9: A Dream Deferred for Quality Education: Civil Rights Legislation and De Facto Segregation in the Cincinnati Schools, 1954-1986 87
  • Notes 91
  • 10: The Housing Conditions of Black Americans: 1960s-1980s 93
  • Conclusion 98
  • Notes 105
  • 11: The Collapse of the Employment Policy Agenda: 1964-1981 107
  • Introduction 107
  • Conclusion 120
  • Notes 121
  • 12: Black Workers at Risk: Jobs for Life or Death 125
  • Conclusion 131
  • Notes 133
  • 13: "Where Do We Go from Here" 137
  • Notes 144
  • Index 147
  • About the Editor and the Contributors 153
  • Hofstra University's Cultural and Intercultural Studies Coordinating Editor, Alexej Ugrinsky 157
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