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Title:Impossible allies: SNCC, Black freedom, and the civil rights liberal alliance
Author(s):Kurhajec, Anna Lillian
Director of Research:Roediger, David R
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Cha-Jua, Sundiata K
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Lang, Clarence; Leff, Mark
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):African American History
U.S. History
Black History
Black Freedom Struggle
Black Power
Civil Rights Movement
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
Abstract:On the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of Black Power and amidst a resurgence of national interest in African American grassroots political mobilizations under the Black Lives Matter umbrella, this dissertation argues for a reformulation of how we understand the history of the civil rights movement, Black Power, and their respective, though interrelated, relationships to Black-defined liberation, mainstream liberalism, and radical politics. By analyzing and reframing familiar debates this project pursues a more usable history for ongoing liberation struggles. It first argues that though it was politically valuable to the civil rights establishment to align itself with mainstream white liberals in the national politics, in media, and in the public sphere, this civil rights liberal alliance ultimately de-centered Black-defined interests, visions, and goals from the Black freedom struggle. While grassroots, Black-centered direct action was a key part of the civil rights liberal framework, maintaining strategic alliance with white liberals in positions of power continued to be a movement priority. From this basis this dissertation re-interprets the liberal framework of the mainstream civil rights movement by examining the uneasy relationship between the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the civil rights liberal alliance. SNCC’s political trajectory illustrates these tensions well. They were an organization of young people who were both independent from but highly influenced by existing civil rights organizations. Yet, over the course of SNCC’s organizational life, they eventually eschewed the liberal framework out of which they came. This project examines this trajectory, highlighting their call for Black Power in 1966 to demonstrate the ways in which Black Power represented a reassertion of Black-centered struggle and simultaneously, how that re-assertion was unacceptable within the framework of the civil rights liberal alliance.
Issue Date:2015-12-02
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Anna Lillian Kurhajec
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-03-02
Date Deposited:2015-12

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