Seminar Presentation - National Humanities Center

Moving America Left and Right: 1945-1990
National Humanities Center
An Online Professional Development Seminar
Designed in collaboration with
the North Carolina Department
of Public Instruction
Made possible through a grant
from the
Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
Nancy MacLean
National Humanities Center Fellow
Professor of History and African
American Studies
Northwestern University
Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of
the American Workplace
Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making
of the Second Ku Klux Klan
Current Research Interests
The Women’s Movement
The Conservative Movement
School Vouchers
Session I
The Long Black Freedom Movement
Focus Questions
What resources did civil rights organizers have by 1960s that
they lacked earlier in U.S. history?
How did the civil rights movement succeed in changing
American culture and institutions?
Where and when did it fall short of its goals? How can we
explain the different outcomes?
From Jacqueline Dowd Hall, “The Long Civil
Rights Movement”
“[T]he dominant narrative of the civil rights movement . . .
distorts and suppresses as much as it reveals.... [The
result is that] it prevents one of the most remarkable
mass movements in American history from speaking
effectively to the challenges of our time. [That is why we
need to learn about and to teach] ... the story of a ‘long
civil rights movement’ that took root in the liberal and
radical milieu of the late 1930s, was intimately tied to the
‘rise and fall of the New Deal order,’ accelerated during
World War II, stretched beyond the South, was
continuously and ferociously contested, and in the 1960s
and 1970s inspired a ‘movement of movements’ that
def[ies] any narrative of collapse.”
A. Philip Randolph, President, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
Broadside for the original March on Washington
These women protesters at the 1963 March on Washington forthrightly
issued demands that had a long history in the civil rights movement:
decent housing, equal rights, voting rights, and jobs for all.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Where Do We Go from Here?”
“With all the struggle and all the achievements, we must
fact the fact, however, that the Negro still lives in the
basement of the Great Society. He is still at the bottom,
despite the few who have penetrated to slightly higher
levels. . . . Negroes are still impoverished aliens in an
affluent society. They are too poor. . . too impoverished
by the ages to be able to ascend by using their own
resources. And the Negro did not do this to himself; it
was done to him.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Where Do We Go from Here?” (1967)
“I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk
about ‘Where do we go from here?’ that we must honestly face
the fact that the movement must address itself to the question
of restructuring the whole of American society. . . . I'm not
talking about communism. What I'm talking about is far beyond
communism . . . . communism forgets that life is individual.
(Yes) Capitalism forgets that life is social. (Yes, Go ahead) And
the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of
communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher
synthesis . . . . it means ultimately coming to see that the
problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and
the problem of war are all tied together. (All right) These are the
triple evils that are interrelated. . . . What I'm saying today is
that we must go from this convention and say, ‘America, you
must be born again!" [applause] (Oh yes)’
Cesar Chavez, “Letter from Delano,” Good Friday 1969
“Dear Mr. Barr [President, California Grape and Tree Fruit League]:
Today on Good Friday 1969 we remember the life and the sacrifice
of Martin Luther King, Jr.,who gave himself totally to the nonviolent
struggle for peace and justice…. We are men and women who have
suffered and endured much, and not only because of our abject
poverty but because we have been kept poor. The colors of our
skins, the languages of our cultural and native origins, the lack of
formal education, the exclusion from the democratic process, the
numbers of our men slain in recent wars –all these burdens
generation after generation have sought to demoralize us, to break
our human spirit. But God knows that we are not beasts of burden,
agricultural implements, or rented slaves; we are men…. And this
struggle itself gives meaning to our life and ennobles our dying. . . .
[We] shall overcome . . . by a determined nonviolent struggle
carried on by those masses of farm workers who intend to be free
and human.
Sincerely yours,
Cesar E. Chavez
United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, A.F.L.-C.I.O.
Delano, CA
Session II
The Long Women’s Movement
Focus Questions
How did feminists, initially a small minority of the population, win
changes so quickly in the late 1960s and early 1970s?
Where did the women’s movement fall short of its goals? How
can we explain the different outcomes?
In what ways were the women’s movement’s dynamics and goals
similar to those of the civil right’s movement? How did they
Bettye Lane, 1970
Nancy MacLean, “Introduction,” The
American Women’s Movement
“The cause that became front page news in the late
1960s had been underway for well over a century. Its
potential to become a mass, effective movement grew
from the reform infrastructure built during the
Progressive Era and the New Deal period; the demand
for a larger and more skilled labor pool generated by
World War II, the cold war, and the postwar consumer
economy; and the inspiration and training provided by
the labor movement, the civil rights movement, and the
New Left of the 1950s and 1960s. These influences
enabled an initially small group to find ways to move
hundreds of thousands and to effect significant change.”
From Congress of American Women, “The Position
of the American Woman Today” (1946)
“Until the day when the American woman is free to
develop her mind and abilities to their fullest extent,
without discrimination because of her sex, is free to work
without neglecting her children, to live with her husband
on an equal level, with adequate provision made for the
care of that home without injury to her health; until she
takes her full responsibilities as citizen and individual,
supporting herself if necessary and her family where she
has a family, at a decent wage, paid equally with men for
the work she does; until she is freed from the terror of
war, and lives in a world of peaceful friendship between
nations, in a society without prejudice against Negro,
Jew, [or] national groups of women–her long struggle for
emancipation must continue.”
Pauli Murray (1910-1985), who grew up in Durham, N.C., in the 1940s
North Carolina-born Pauli Murray, 1964
“The human rights ‘revolution’ transcends the issue of
discrimination on the basis of race or color. Women
rights are part of human rights. . . . Negro women
especially need protection against discrimination
because an even greater percentage of Negro women
are heads of families.”
Addie Wyatt addressing a Women’s Affairs Conference
of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA)
Betye Saar
Liberation of Aunt Jemima
Mixed media assemblage
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 1995
“We, the Governments participating in the Fourth World
Conference on Women. . . recognize that the status of
women has advanced in some important respects in the last
decade but that progress has been uneven... [and] also
recognize that this situation is exacerbated by the increasing
poverty that is affecting the lives of the majority of the
world’s people, in particular women and children. . . . We
are convinced that . . . women’s equality and their full
participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of
society. . . are fundamental to the achievement of equality,
development, and peace[.] Women’s rights are human
How does viewing the era from 1945 to 1990
as an era of citizen organizing for social
change bring new coherence to this era?
Final slide.
Thank you.

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