Laboured Protest

Laboured Protest : Black Civil Rights in New York City and Detroit During the New Deal and War

  • Hardback

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While the popular view of the US civil rights movement remains fixated on the post-war South and the charismatic leadership of Martin Luther King Jr., a different view has gained ground in academia. Many historians now believe there was a "long" civil rights movement that went beyond the South, and which predated the 1950s and survived beyond the 1960s. Contributing to this unfolding debate, Dr. Ayers shows that there was indeed an early civil rights movement in the North, but challenges the "long" thesis by showing how it had diverse aims, a wide cast of characters, and achieved more limited results than is commonly claimed. Shedding light on numerous examples of protest, this book argues that a certain type of activism and distinctive recipe for success was made necessary by the rise of the New Deal. With responsibility for discrimination shared between parties, it became essential that direct sustained pressure was applied by a coordinated cross-section of the black community.
A range of street-level nationalists, conservative advocates of business-oriented strategies and liberals in established groups in the "mainstream" of politics like the NAACP and Urban League were joined by newer voices in the labour movement and on the radical left. But while unity was achieved on certain issues, the book demonstrates that there was no neat shift to the left, and instead many in the centre of black politics made the left come to them, as much as they travelled to the left. Through this reappraisal of the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. Ayers challenges current orthodoxies about the black freedom struggle, revealing an important story about barriers to racial equality in America, during a moment of relative progressive change.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 152 x 229mm
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 113863090X
  • 9781138630901

Table of contents

Introduction 1. Economic Activism in New York City During the New Deal 2. Unionization and Political Protest in 1930s Detroit 3. Civil Rights Protests in New York City on the Eve of War 4. The Unionization of Ford, Conversion to War Production and Protest Coalitions in Detroit 5. Wartime Activism in New York City: the March on Washington Movement and the Negro Labour Victory Committee 6. Wartime Activism in Detroit: Protest in the Era of the Fair Employment Practices Committee Conclusion
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Author information

Oliver M. Ayers is a tenured Lecturer in Modern History at the New College of the Humanities in London.
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