Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

La Strada per Selma: La Mobilitazione Afroamericana E Il Voting Rights Act del 1965

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

La Strada per Selma: La Mobilitazione Afroamericana E Il Voting Rights Act del 1965

Article excerpt

La Strada per Selma: La Mobilitazione Afroamericana e il Voting Rights Act del 1965. By Nadia Venturini. (Milan, Italy: Franco Angeli, 2016. Pp. 211. 25.00 [euro], ISBN 978-88-917-2640-7.)

Nadia Venturini dedicates La Strada per Selma: La Mobilitazione Afroamericana e il Voting Rights Act del 1965 to "Ai ragazzi che muoino nelle stive dei barconi, nelle acque del canale di Sicilia, sulle strade d'Europa [to the kids who die in the holds of ships, in the waters surrounding Sicily, and on the roads across Europe]" (p. 5). Echoing Langston Hughes's 1938 poem, "Kids Who Die," the dedication signals one of the book's major concerns: young people who devoted their lives to civil rights not just in the 1960s but also for decades before the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Divided into four chapters, the book explores the long-term impact of the Voting Rights Act and looks at how union leaders, beauticians, and citizenship schools shaped its long history.

Echoing Jacquelyn Dowd Hall's 2005 call to investigate the history of the long civil rights movement, the book builds on recent efforts to extend the movement's temporal limits and redefine its main actors and goals. Venturini contributes to this historiography in two ways. First, she connects the mobilization for the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s to the grassroots mobilization for African Americans' rights before World War II to highlight the role of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the U.S. Communist Party and to demonstrate the intersection between the fight for the right to vote and the push for labor rights. Shifting focus allows her to tell this story through the eyes of lesser-known historical actors in the civil rights movement, especially union members, farmers, and activists living in rural areas.

Second, building on Belinda Robnett's notion of bridge leadership, Venturini emphasizes the role of women in the fight for the Voting Rights Act and the complex gender dynamics within the movement. In the mobilization for voting rights, as in many campaigns during the civil rights movement, male chauvinism and sexism were often prevalent. Yet, as the author shows, men advocated for civil rights at the national level, and women represented the engine and force behind local initiatives. …

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