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  • The Southern Civil Rights Movement

    AMH 3930/Fall 2005

    Research Paper Topics

    1. Consider the relative significance of, on one hand, Martin Luther King’s family and church background and, on the other hand, his academic training in seminary and graduate school in the evolution of his social philosophy.

    2. Analyze the contribution of either James Lawson, or Ella Baker, or James Bevel, or Fannie Lou Hamer, or Bayard Rustin to the southern civil rights movement.

    3. “The Brown decision did more to fuel Massive Resistance and halt the steady improvement in southern race relation after World War Two than it did to promote desegregation.” Consider the impact of Brown in the light of this comment.

    4. Examine the advantages and disadvantages of using first-hand testimony and autobiographies to understand the southern civil rights movement. (Be sure to use concrete examples of how such accounts can both illuminate and distort our understanding of Movement history). NB: You cannot do this essay if you chose the autobiography research project option.

    5. How important is it to understand the religious lives and beliefs of black and white southerners in order to understand the history of the civil rights movement?

    6. What efforts did southern white liberals make to assist the African American freedom struggle during the period 1954 to 1965? How successful were they?

    7. How important is it to pay attention to local factors in explaining the diverse ways in which the civil rights movement unfolded in the South? Your answer should pay attention to Movement activities in at least two cities or towns located in at least two different states.

    8. Compare and contrast the desegregation of at least two public universities in the South.

    9. Analyze the contribution of lawyers and/or judges to the history of the southern civil rights movement. (Your examples might include segregationists as well as pro-civil rights lawyers and judges).

    10. How important were international affairs in explaining the timing, character and successes of the southern civil rights movement?

    11. Examine the significance of the campaign for black voting rights in transforming the social and political landscape of the South.

    12. Examine the contribution of southern white women to the civil rights movement, c.1955-1968.

    13. Publicity was vital to the promotion of black civil rights in the South. Examine the ways in which either SCLC or SNCC sought to cultivate the print and electronic media during the late 1950s and early 1960s. (You should pay special attention to the work of these organizations’ communications and/or public relations departments.)

    14. How did Martin Luther King’s relationship with, and attitudes towards, the federal government change between 1955 and 1968?

    15. Many civil rights leaders and organizations recognized that racial discrimination in the South was linked to economic underdevelopment and exploitation in the region. What role did either the southern business community or labor unions play in the history of the southern civil rights movement?

    16. Examine the place of Vietnam in explaining the radicalization of the Movement in the mid-1960s.

    17. How did Martin Luther King and the SCLC work to turn statutory equality into genuine equality of opportunity after the passage of the civil rights and voting rights legislation of the mid-1960s? How successful were these efforts?

    18. Examine the civil rights work of either the NAACP, or the SCLC, or the SRC (and its Florida Council on Human Relations affiliate) in Florida between c.1950 and 1968.

    19. Consider how the southern civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s has been memorialized in American life. Your essay might consider how the Martin Luther King holiday",civil rights documentaries, high school textbooks, novels and other artforms, as well as the trials and re-trails of white supremacists, have helped to shape popular understandings of the Movement.

    NB: Remember, you need to provide full bibliographic information and citations for these research essays.

    Use footnote or endnote citations for primary sources and for secondary sources from which you have taken information or ideas.

    Primary source examples:

    Matthew Etherington, letter to Steve Lomas, July 12 1959, Series X, Reel 23, Folder 118, SCLC Papers, microfilm edition.

    Anton Ferdinand, “To Secure These 3 Points,” Speech to SRC Meeting, Atlanta, January 23, 1964, Series II, Reel 9, Folder 12, SRC Papers.

    Teddy Sheringham, “Too Old To Chase That Ball,” Gainesville Sun, December 5, 1951, pp.3-4