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Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1940-1970 (New Perspectives on the History of the South)

Kirk, John A.

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ISBN 10: 0813029236 / ISBN 13: 9780813029238
Published by University Press of Florida
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Title: Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in...

Publisher: University Press of Florida

Book Condition:Good

About this title

Synopsis:

One of the most significant events in the struggle for black civil rights in America was the integration in 1957 of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation was unconstitutional. The South's campaign of massive resistance against this ruling culminated in a showdown at Little Rock's Central High School, where President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to protect nine black students as they entered the school. Although numerous studies have analyzed the Little Rock school crisis from a variety of perspectives, one striking omission in existing accounts is the role played by local black activists who were at the very center of events. This is the first book to contextualize the events in Little Rock within the unfolding struggle for black rights at local, state, regional, and national levels between 1940 and 1970.

Book Description:

"The author has redefined the well-known story of the Little Rock crisis as a product of long-term developments among black citizens in Arkansas. Among other things, Kirk shows that many black persons in Little Rock and elsewhere in the state were active historical agents, long before the mass media, federal government, or textbook writers took notice of them."--David Chappell, University of Arkansas

"Kirk’s book delivers on what it claims to provide--a heretofore missing perspective of the black community in Little Rock and, to an extent, in [all of] Arkansas on the school integration crisis of 1957-58. In addition, his emphasis on the origins of this civil rights struggle in the 1940s and on the NAACP as a spearhead of that struggle is most welcome too."--Richard King, University of Nottingham

One of the most significant events in the struggle for black civil rights in America was the integration in 1957 of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation was unconstitutional. The South's campaign of massive resistance against this ruling culminated in a showdown at Little Rock's Central High School, where President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to protect nine black students as they entered the school. Although numerous studies have analyzed the Little Rock school crisis from a variety of perspectives, one striking omission in existing accounts is the role played by local black activists who were at the very center of events. This is the first book to contextualize the events in Little Rock within the unfolding struggle for black rights at local, state, regional, and national levels between 1940 and 1970.

Early civil-rights scholarship focused almost exclusively on the role played by national civil rights organizations between 1955 and 1965. John Kirk argues that only by understanding the groundwork laid by black activists at the grassroots level in the 1940s and 1950s can we fully understand the significance of later protests. Moreover, Kirk shows that local-level black activists and black organizations were not homogeneous, but differed significantly in their goals and strategies, thereby adding a multi-dimensional facet to a complex struggle that was more than just white against black.

Drawing upon oral history interviews and new material garnered from activists' privately-owned collections, as well as extensive documentation from local, state, regional, and national public archives, Redefining the Color Line charts new territory in the study of the Little Rock school crisis and forces a reevaluation of that familiar event and its place in the history of the civil rights struggle.

John A. Kirk is a lecturer in history at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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