Rethinking Civil Rights History and the Origins of Black Power

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The Civil Rights Revolution changed the complexion of American society; however, the old civil rights master narrative, with its leading-man casting, has been seriously questioned by a new generation of scholarship. This lecture and film course introduces students to the old and new paradigms of civil rights history and the origins of Black Power. If the old historical narrative places Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and the Black Panther Party at center stage, then the new paradigms make room for Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and organizations from the National Welfare Rights Organization to the Black Women’s United Front at center stage. This history raises several questions. Where are women’s voices in the strategic debates around nonviolence and self-defense? What role did cultural and educational programs play in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements? What was the difference between Jim Crow in Mississippi and Jim Crow in Detroit, Chicago, Harlem, and Watts? How did the Civil Rights Movement defeat white terror? Did the grassroots produce leadership in the Civil Rights Revolution? What role did students play in that epic drama? What was the organizing tradition in the Black Revolt?