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Article

Hamer, Fannie Lou  

Sadye L. M. Logan

Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She dedicated her life to community organizing and the fight for human and civil rights. Hamer was also the co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

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Clark, Septima Poinsette  

Brenda K. J. Crawley

Septima Poinsetta Clark (1898–1987) is well-known for her citizenship schools, literacy training, voting and civil rights activism, and community, political, and social services.

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Gender and the Civil Rights Curricula  

Belinda Robnett

For decades, women in the United States have fought for civil rights. Other than the fight for women’s civil rights, women’s activism in other types of social movements has been largely ignored in textbooks and in the media. Two factors contribute to this neglect. First, historically, women have held differential access to structural and institutional power. Second, with a narrow definition of leadership, researchers focused exclusively on charismatic and formal social movement leaders. However, women served as leaders and participants not only in the Suffrage movement and the second-wave feminist movement but also in the U.S. civil rights movement, the Chican@ movement, the Asian American movement, and the Native American movement. Among the causes, women have fought on the front lines for voting rights; equal employment opportunities; equal pay; desegregated housing, schools, and public facilities; reproductive rights; tribal land rights; cultural and religious preservation; LGBTQ+ rights; criminal justice; welfare rights; universal healthcare; parental leave; environmental justice; and subsidized child care. Women served as formal leaders in women’s movement organizations, and as bridge leaders in mixed-gender groups. As bridge leaders, they fostered ties between the social movement and the community, between strategies (aimed at individual change, identity, and consciousness) and political strategies (aimed at organizational tactics designed to challenge existing relationships with the state and other societal institutions). The African American, Asian American, Native American, and Chicana women’s movements did not emerge after the second-wave feminist movement, which mainly comprised white middle-class women, but simultaneously. In the case of women of color, African American, Latinx, Asian American, and Native American women have struggled for justice and equality on behalf of their specific racial–ethnic groups. Born out of gender inequality within their respective racial–ethnic movement, the activists formulated a multicultural/womanist feminism/womanism that addressed the intersectionality, race–ethnicity, gender, and class dimensions of their lived experiences.

Article

Abernathy, Ralph David  

Lou M. Beasley

Ralph David Abernathy (1926–1990) was a pastor who became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after the assassination of Martin Luther King. He was director of personnel, dean of men, and professor of social studies at Alabama State University.

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Women in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements  

Christina Greene

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are the names that come to mind for most Americans if asked about the civil rights or Black Power movements. Others may point to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, both of whom backed pathbreaking civil rights legislation. However, recent scholarship suggests that neither black male leaders nor white male presidents were always the most important figures in the modern struggle for black freedom. Presidents took their cues not simply from male luminaries in civil rights organizations. Rather, their legislative initiatives were largely in response to grassroots protests in which women, especially black women, were key participants. African American women played major roles in local and national organizing efforts and frequently were the majority in local chapters of groups as dissimilar as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Black Panther Party. Even familiar names like Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King have become little more than sanitized national icons, while their decades-long efforts to secure racial, economic, and gender justice remain relatively unknown. Aside from activists and scholars, even fewer of us know much, if anything, about the female allies of the black freedom struggle, including white southerners as well as other women of color. A closer look at the women who made enormous contributions to both the modern civil rights and Black Power movements sheds new light on these struggles, including the historic national victories we think we fully understand, such as the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In short, examining women’s participation in the “long civil rights movement,” which historians increasingly date to the New Deal and World War II, calls for a redefinition of more conventional notions of leadership, protest, and politics.

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Sexual Harassment  

Sondra J. Fogel and Doris A. Boateng

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination as well as a complex social issue with psychological implications for both those who are harassed and those who perpetrate the harassment. Women continue to be primary targets, although men, youths, and sexual minorities are increasingly pursued. Legally prohibited in the workplace and educational institutions, sexual harassment persists in personal interactions as well as by electronic means despite prevention efforts such as education programs and zero-tolerance policies. This entry will define sexual harassment, provide an overview of its prevalence, and describe approaches for its remedy.

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Blindness and Visual Impairment  

Adrienne Asch and Nancy R. Mudrick

Significant visual impairment affects ~8 million Americans, 1.8 million of whom are blind and must find nonvisual methods of performing life roles. Social workers should not assume that people with visual impairment or blindness are unable to work, have families, or engage in sports or travel, or that vision limitations are necessarily a part of every presenting problem. Key roles for social workers include assisting in access to services and training and advocacy to combat discrimination and exclusion.

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Puerto Ricans in the United States  

Lorrin Thomas

Puerto Rican migrants have resided in the United States since before the Spanish-Cuban-American War of 1898, when the United States took possession of the island of Puerto Rico as part of the Treaty of Paris. After the war, groups of Puerto Ricans began migrating to the United States as contract laborers, first to sugarcane plantations in Hawaii, and then to other destinations on the mainland. After the Jones Act of 1917 extended U.S. citizenship to islanders, Puerto Ricans migrated to the United States in larger numbers, establishing their largest base in New York City. Over the course of the 1920s and 1930s, a vibrant and heterogeneous colonia developed there, and Puerto Ricans participated actively both in local politics and in the increasingly contentious politics of their homeland, whose status was indeterminate until it became a commonwealth in 1952. The Puerto Rican community in New York changed dramatically after World War II, accommodating up to fifty thousand new migrants per year during the peak of the “great migration” from the island. Newcomers faced intense discrimination and marginalization in this era, defined by both a Cold War ethos and liberal social scientists’ interest in the “Puerto Rican problem.” Puerto Rican migrant communities in the 1950s and 1960s—now rapidly expanding into the Midwest, especially Chicago, and into New Jersey, Connecticut, and Philadelphia—struggled with inadequate housing and discrimination in the job market. In local schools, Puerto Rican children often faced a lack of accommodation of their need for English language instruction. Most catastrophic for Puerto Rican communities, on the East Coast particularly, was the deindustrialization of the labor market over the course of the 1960s. By the late 1960s, in response to these conditions and spurred by the civil rights, Black Power, and other social movements, young Puerto Ricans began organizing and protesting in large numbers. Their activism combined a radical approach to community organizing with Puerto Rican nationalism and international anti-imperialism. The youth were not the only activists in this era. Parents in New York had initiated, together with their African American neighbors, a “community control” movement that spanned the late 1960s and early 1970s; and many other adult activists pushed the politics of the urban social service sector—the primary institutions in many impoverished Puerto Rican communities—further to the left. By the mid-1970s, urban fiscal crises and the rising conservative backlash in national politics dealt another blow to many Puerto Rican communities in the United States. The Puerto Rican population as a whole was now widely considered part of a national “underclass,” and much of the political energy of Puerto Rican leaders focused on addressing the paucity of both basic material stability and social equality in their communities. Since the 1980s, however, Puerto Ricans have achieved some economic gains, and a growing college-educated middle class has managed to gain more control over the cultural representations of their communities. More recently, the political salience of Puerto Ricans as a group has begun to shift. For the better part of the 20th century, Puerto Ricans in the United States were considered numerically insignificant or politically impotent (or both); but in the last two presidential elections (2008 and 2012), their growing populations in the South, especially in Florida, have drawn attention to their demographic significance and their political sensibilities.

Article

The Sit-In Movement  

Christopher W. Schmidt

One of the most significant protest campaigns of the civil rights era, the lunch counter sit-in movement began on February 1, 1960 when four young African American men sat down at the whites-only lunch counter of the Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina. Refused service, the four college students sat quietly until the store closed. They continued their protest on the following days, each day joined by more fellow students. Students in other southern cities learned what was happening and started their own demonstrations, and in just weeks, lunch counter sit-ins were taking place across the South. By the end of the spring, tens of thousands of black college and high school students, joined in some cases by sympathetic white students, had joined the sit-in movement. Several thousand went to jail for their efforts after being arrested on charges of trespass, disorderly conduct, or whatever other laws southern police officers believed they could use against the protesters. The sit-ins arrived at a critical juncture in the modern black freedom struggle. The preceding years had brought major breakthroughs, such as the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation ruling in 1954 and the successful Montgomery bus boycott of 1955–1956, but by 1960, activists were struggling to develop next steps. The sit-in movement energized and transformed the struggle for racial equality, moving the leading edge of the movement from the courtrooms and legislative halls to the streets and putting a new, younger generation of activists on the front lines. It gave birth to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the most important activist groups of the 1960s. It directed the nation’s attention to the problem of racial discrimination in private businesses that served the public, pressured business owners in scores of southern cities to open their lunch counters to African American customers, and set in motion a chain of events that would culminate in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned racial discrimination in public accommodations across the nation.

Article

Civil Liberties  

Theodore J. Stein

Civil liberties refer to certain freedoms granted to all citizens. They have been established as bills of rights in the constitutions of such countries as the United States, India, South Africa, and Great Britain. Civil rights differ from civil liberties in that the former are expressed in statutes enacted by legislative bodies. Civil liberties limit the state's power to interfere in the lives of its citizens, whereas civil rights take a more proactive role to ensure that all citizens have equal protection. Civil liberties are most endangered during national emergencies when governments infringe on individual liberties to safeguard the nation.

Article

Wilkins, Roy  

Wilma Peebles-Wilkins

Roy Wilkins (1901–1981) was a writer and national civil rights spokesperson. He was assistant executive secretary and executive director of the NAACP for 46 years, during which time he struggled for justice and civil rights in all aspects of American life.

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Southern Literature and the Civil Rights Era  

Julie Buckner Armstrong

Southern literature provides numerous, diverse responses to the civil rights era. Produced during the movement itself and continuing into the 21st century, southern civil rights writing appears as poetry, drama, memoir, graphic narrative, short stories, and novels, including literary fiction and bestsellers. Movement-related works commemorate events, places, and people both famous and unknown. Authors speak of political awakening to systemic racism and violence. They consider the effectiveness of organizing tactics and the ethical implications of resistance strategies. They write compellingly about the ways segregation, protest, race relations, and sweeping social changes affect individuals and their relationships. Southern literature also exists in complex relationship to the civil rights era due in part to both terms’ fluid, evolving definitions. “Southern literature” can refer to works written in and about the American South, yet both of these categories remain more dynamic than static. The South is demarcated geographically as the United States’ southeastern and south central tier and historically as a region with ties to the former Confederacy. The South’s vexed legacy of slavery and segregation plays a role in defining a regional identity that some consider to be distinctive in terms of dialect, food culture, and an emphasis on conservative views of family, community, religion, place, and history. Many scholars, however, see constructions of a distinct southern identity with an accompanying literature as outmoded, particularly in an era of shifting demographics within the US and globalization more broadly. Like “southern literature,” the “civil rights era” resists rigid definition. The movement itself can refer to the period from the US Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision desegregating public schools to the 1965 Voting Rights Act—an era focused on specific civil rights leadership, goals, and, notably, the American South. Alternatively, one can define the movement more comprehensively to look at what happened before and after “the King years,” referring to the period’s iconic figure Martin Luther King Jr. This version of civil rights extends the movement to points North and West, includes Black Power (typically focused on the late 1960s and early 1970s), and links it to contemporaneous human rights and post-colonial struggles. Authors from the American South respond to this broader story by connecting the movement to issues such as immigration; policing and incarceration; economic and environmental justice; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. Here writers depict a dynamic, multifaceted South that continues striving to transform political ideals into realities.

Article

Civil Disobedience and Conscientious Objection  

William Smith and Kimberley Brownlee

Civil disobedience and conscientious objection are distinct but related social practices that display people’s opposition to specific laws, policies, directives, or schemes. In general, these two practices arise from people’s deeply held commitments. Civil disobedience is more overtly communicative and political than conscientious objection. Civil disobedience is also, almost by definition, a breach of law, which people engage in to push for changes in either governmental or nongovernmental practices. Conscientious objection, by contrast, does not always break the law: sometimes it is a legally protected form of nonconformity. It is also less overtly political than civil disobedience, stemming as it does from people’s desire not to participate in practices they oppose, rather than from their ambition to change those practices. Both practices can be morally justified under specific conditions that, among other things, include doing only limited harm to other people. Moreover, under even more specific conditions, both practices could be said to be protected by moral rights. Civil disobedience and conscientious objection generate pressing normative and political challenges concerning the nature of the rule of law, respect for the rule of law, conditions for deliberative democracy, equality before the law, policing, adjudication, and punishment.

Article

Environmental Justice  

Gary Bryner

Environmental justice brings together two of the most powerful social movements of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, environmentalism and civil rights. Despite the success in reducing pollution and improving environmental quality in many areas, the reduction of race- and income-based disparities in environmental conditions, such as the levels of pollution to which individuals are exposed, has seen limited progress. Minority and low income communities continue to bear the brunt of environmental burdens. The idea of environmental justice also helps clarify the ethical issues underlying climate change and compels action to reduce the threat even in the face of uncertainties and to help poor nations with the costs of adapting to disruptive climate change. A major challenge in environmental justice is deciding how to define the problem. Five options for framing the issue of environmental justice capture most of the approaches taken by advocates and scholars. These are the civil rights framework; theories of distributive justice, fairness, and rights; the public participation framework, social justice framework, and ecological sustainability framework. These frameworks are not mutually exclusive. They overlap considerably and proponents of one primary framework may rely on elements of others as they frame the issues. Advocates of environmental justice will find that elements of each can contribute to their goal. No one framework is sufficient, but in recognizing where those with other views are coming from, we can develop opportunities for creative solutions that bring together alternative approaches.

Article

Anti-Imperialism  

Robert David Johnson

The birth of the United States through a successful colonial revolution created a unique nation-state in which anti-imperialist sentiment existed from the nation’s founding. Three broad points are essential in understanding the relationship between anti-imperialism and U.S. foreign relations. First, the United States obviously has had more than its share of imperialist ventures over the course of its history. Perhaps the better way to address the matter is to remark on—at least in comparison to other major powers—how intense a commitment to anti-imperialism has remained among some quarters of the American public and government. Second, the strength of anti-imperialist sentiment has varied widely and often has depended upon domestic developments, such as the emergence of abolitionism before the Civil War or the changing nature of the Progressive movement following World War I. Third, anti-imperialist policy alternatives have enjoyed considerably more support in Congress than in the executive branch.

Article

Baltimore  

David Schley

Baltimore, Maryland, rose to prominence in the late 18th century as a hub for the Atlantic wheat trade. A slave city in a slave state, Baltimore was home to the largest free Black community in antebellum America. Nineteenth-century Baltimore saw trend-setting experiments in railroading as well as frequent episodes of collective violence that left the city with the nickname, “mobtown”; one such riot, in 1861, led to the first bloodshed of the Civil War. After the war, Baltimore’s African American community waged organized campaigns to realize civil rights. Residential segregation—both de jure and de facto—posed a particular challenge. Initiatives in Baltimore such as a short-lived segregation ordinance and racial covenants in property deeds helped establish associations between race and property values that shaped federal housing policy during the New Deal. The African American population grew during World War II and strained against the limited housing available to them, prompting protests, often effective, against segregation. Nonetheless, suburbanization, deindustrialization, and redlining have left the city with challenging legacies to confront.

Article

Urban Exceptionalism in the American South  

David Goldfield

While colonial New Englanders gathered around town commons, settlers in the Southern colonials sprawled out on farms and plantations. The distinctions had more to do with the varying objectives of these colonial settlements and the geography of deep-flowing rivers in the South than with any philosophical predilections. The Southern colonies did indeed sprout towns, but these were places of planters’ residences, planters’ enslaved Africans, and the plantation economy, an axis that would persist through the antebellum period. Still, the aspirations of urban Southerners differed little from their Northern counterparts in the decades before the Civil War. The institution of slavery and an economy emphasizing commercial agriculture hewed the countryside close to the urban South, not only in economics, but also in politics. The devastation of the Civil War rendered the ties between city and country in the South even tighter. The South participated in the industrial revolution primarily to the extent of processing crops. Factories were often located in small towns and did not typically contribute to urbanization. City boosters aggressively sought and subsidized industrial development, but a poorly educated labor force and the scarcity of capital restricted economic development. Southern cities were more successful in legalizing the South’s culture of white supremacy through legal segregation and the memorialization of the Confederacy. But the dislocations triggered by World War II and the billions of federal dollars poured into Southern urban infrastructure and industries generated hope among civic leaders for a postwar boom. The civil rights movement after 1950, with many of its most dramatic moments focused on the South’s cities, loosened the connection between Southern city and region as cities chose development rather than the stagnation that was certain to occur without a moderation of race relations. The predicted economic bonanza occurred. Young people left the rural areas and small towns of the South for the larger cities to find work in the postindustrial economy and, for the first time in over a century, the urban South received migrants in appreciable numbers from other parts of the country and the world. The lingering impact of spatial distinctions and historical differences (particularly those related to the Civil War) linger in Southern cities, but exceptionalism is a fading characteristic.

Article

Robison, Sophie Moses  

Larraine M. Edwards

Sophie Moses Robison (1888–1969) was a social worker, educator, and researcher who helped create social policy changes for juvenile delinquents. She held a PhD in sociology from Columbia University. Her research efforts and recommendations resulted in urban educational reform.

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Music of the 1960s and Social Justice: Masterpieces of American Protest Songs and Why They Matter in the Trump Era  

Mark Hamm

This article offers a sociopolitical framework for appreciating seven masterpieces of American protest music that emerged during the tumultuous decade of the 1960s. Attention is paid to the “worked-at-process” that each artist experienced while creating their landmark songs. They include Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” (recorded in 1956 but popularized in the 1960s); Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”; Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”; Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam”; James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”; Jimi Hendrix’s “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock; and John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” These songs became masterpieces primarily because they arose hand-in-glove with mass demonstrations for peace and social justice, thereby establishing legacies of protest music for future generations, particularly, the generation now facing uncertainty and fear created by the presidency of Donald Trump.

Article

Civil Rights  

Tanya Smith Brice, Denise McLane-Davison, and Tyler A. Brice

Civil rights is the protection of citizens from infringement by governmental entities and the extension of basic rights. Civil rights are based on citizenship status. The 14th Amendment establishes U.S. citizenship that has been extended throughout history to different groups. Civil rights legislation is grounded in this question of citizenship. As social workers, it is important that we understand this relationship and advocate to continue broadening the constitutional promise of “equal protection under the laws” to all who reside within the United States.