Academic journal article American Studies

AN ARMY OF LIONS: The Civil Rights Struggle before the NAACP

Academic journal article American Studies

AN ARMY OF LIONS: The Civil Rights Struggle before the NAACP

Article excerpt

AN ARMY OF LIONS: The Civil Rights Struggle before the NAACP. By Shawn Leigh Alexander. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2012.

An Army of Lions by University of Kansas historian Shawn Leigh Alexander is a highly welcomed contribution to the historiography of American civil rights. This book concentrates on African American civil rights organizations during the immedi- ate post-Reconstruction period to the founding of the Niagara Movement focusing on organizations such as the Afro-American League and the Afro-American Council. Alexander also highlights key personalities such as T. Thomas Fortune. Alexander argues that the Afro-American League, in particular, provided the ideological platform for the more prominent NAACP. Even after the Afro-American League dissolved, local "leagues" and the Afro-American Council continued to operate from the same ideology. Such an argument helps scholars to understand better the importance of this period known as the "nadir" in terms of African American political organizing and its influence on the modem civil rights movement.

One large assertion Alexander challenges is that the Niagara Movement was the legitimate progenitor of the NAACP. Alexander's evidence to counter this argu- ment rests on the general context of the resurgence of white Southern terrorism in the immediate post-Reconstruction South as Conservatives attempted and succeeded to disenfranchise African Americans. Alexander points out that African American leadership saw the clear need to organize for the protection of their civil rights as early as the 1880s through calls by African American journalists such as T. Thomas Fortune and Ida B. Wells. In 1889, leaders formed the Afro-American League. …

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