The African American Liberation Struggle, broadly conceived, is the enduring, multi-faceted, and complex freedom struggle waged by Africans in the Americas from the period of enslavement down to the present. Our focus will be a narrow and specific location and time within that broad and centuries-long liberation/freedom struggle: the US from 1940 to 1980. Commonly referred to as the Civil Rights (1940-1966) and Black Power (1966-1980) Eras, the modern African American Freedom Struggle has yielded a rich and stimulating body of work, including works of culture and history. We will critically examine some of the best of that work in an effort to better understand the origins, development, meanings, and consequences of the modern African American Liberation Struggle, or the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement in particular. We will also give special attention to “The Music”: the connection between African American music and the African American Freedom Struggle. At the end, we will critically examine a few works on the more “recent” period in an effort to better understand key continuities and discontinuities earmarking the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement, on one hand, and the “Post”-Civil Rights— “Post”-Black Power Movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, on the other. Possible readings include: W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk; Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery; Ida B. Wells, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases; Patricia A. Sullivan, Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement; Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; The Autobiography of Malcolm X; Assata; Leigh Raiford, Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle; Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption; and, Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton, Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter.
Waldo Martin is a Professor in the Department of History.