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The US Civil Rights Movements

This session explores the emergence of a mass civil rights movement among African Americans and it’s impact on US Society.


For discussion

What was the social position of African Americans prior to 1945?

How did the struggle for Civil Rights change over the C20th, and to what extent was it successful?

How was the broader black freedom struggle reflected in US culture?

What role did the civil rights movement play in the wider struggle for civil rights by other minorities in the post-war US?


Required Reading

James Baldwin, ‘Notes of a Native Son, in Notes of a Native Son (page nos. vary according to edition)

Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham City Jail. (Available online; see -)

Nina Simone, Mississippi Goddam (lyric and song)

Further Reading: Books

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City (2003)

David M. Chalmers, And the Crooked Places Made Straight: The Struggle for Social Change in the 1960s (1991)

Gary Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (2001)

Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (1968)

Jack. E. Davis (ed.), The Civil Rights Movement (2001)

Adam Fairclough, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality, 1890-2000 (2001)

Maurice Isserman, and Michael Kazin (eds), America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s (2000)

Peter Ling and Sharon Monteith (eds.), Gender and the Civil Rights Movement (2004)

Howell Raines (ed.), My Soul is Rested: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South (1983)

Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (1996)

Brian Ward, Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South (2004)

Malcolm X, Autobiography (1966)

Further Reading: Articles

Adam Fairclough, ‘‘Being in the Field of Education and also being a Negro…seems…tragic’. Black teachers in the Jim Crow South’, Journal of American History, 87, 1 (June 2000)

Ruth Feldstein, ‘‘I Don’t Trust You Anymore’: Nina Simone, Culture and Black Activism in the 1960s’, Journal of American History, 91, 4

Thomas J. Sugrue, ‘Affirmative Action from Below: Civil Rights, the Building Trades, and the Politics of Racial Equality in the Urban North, 1945- 1969,’ The Journal of American History, 91, 1 (June 2004)

Timothy Tyson, ‘Robert F. Williams, ‘Black Power’, and the roots of the African-American freedom struggle’, Journal of American History, 85, 2 (1998)

Various, ‘A Round Table: Martin Luther King Jr.’, Journal of American History, 74, 2 (1987), pp.436-81

Various, ‘The Voices of African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement’ (Special Issue) Journal of Black Studies, 26, 5 (May, 1996), pp. 560-576.

Various, ‘Round Table: Brown v. Board of Education, Fifty Years After’, The Journal of American History, Vol 91, 1 (June 2004).