Liberation culture : African American culture as a political weapon in the 1960s civil rights movement
This thesis addresses the use of African American culture as a political weapon in the 1960s civil rights movement. It argues that African American culture was an important weapon for the movement and focuses on how the three major 1960s civil rights organisations - the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Congress of Racial Equality and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference - engaged with cultural forms such as song, theatre, literature and art. It also examines smaller groups, such as the Free Southern Theater, the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project, the Black Panther Party and Us, and important individuals such as Guy Carawan, Robert F. Williams, Amiri Baraka and Malcolm X. A particular concern of the thesis is the role that education played in spreading the civil rights movement's message. Although based in historical method, it is also grounded in cultural theory, addressing Antonio Gramsci's conception of hegemony and oppositional culture and incorporating ideas of identity and memory. It presents SNCC's 1964 Summer Project as a central event of the civil rights movement, where the relationship between education, culture and the movement peaked. In doing so, the thesis addresses the periodisation of the movement, suggesting that 1964 be interpreted as the turning point of the movement. Implicit in the thesis is the relationship between the civil rights organisations and the North. The thesis argues that the movement started to look north prior to 1965. It suggests that African American culture proved to be a unifying force between the 'Civil Rights' and 'Black Power' eras and examines events and individuals that straddled both periods. It therefore proposes that the relationship between these historical phenomena be re-examined and that Black Power be reassessed as an outgrowth of the civil rights movement.