You are here

Exposing the Whitewashed 'Fable' of the Civil Rights Movement

https://smhttp-ssl-62992.nexcesscdn.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/BeautifulTerribleHistory-850x608.jpg

 

  • Review of “A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History” ~ Jeanne Theoharis
  • A new book argues that the memorialization of the movement becomes "a veil to obscure enduring racial inequality, a tool to chastise contemporary protest, and a shield to charges of indifference and inaction."
  • Click here to read long excerpts from “A More Beautiful and Terrible History” at Google Books.
  • Related: Series | 1968 Reduxed and Revisited: Look How Far We’ve Come (That Was Sarcasm) — Part 5 of 5

Randall Kennedy, Truthdig



 

http://evergreenedigest.org/sites/default/files/We%20Get%20By_0.jpg

If you like reading this article, consider joining the crew of all reader-supported Evergreene Digest by contributing the equivalent of a cafe latte a month--using the donation button above—so we can bring you more just like it.



Feb 23, 2018 | “A More Beautiful and Terrible History” is a critique of what its author derides as the ascendant fable of the civil rights movement—the black protests that challenged the racial status quo between the 1950s and the 1970s. Brooklyn College professor Jeanne Theoharis contends that influential shapers of public memory have attempted with considerable success to whitewash and truncate recollections of the movement. The culprits include academics, journalists and politicians. What they have done, she charges, is depict a movement devoid of unsettling militance, with narrow aims that were accomplished on account of an attentive citizenry that only needed to glimpse injustice in order to respond nobly. The fable, she argues, is complacently triumphalist, offering a distorted mirror that misleadingly celebrates observers.

She makes her argument tellingly, offering example after revealing example. She notes, for instance, the trajectory of President Ronald Reagan’s stance toward the most prominent episode of civil rights movement iconography—the creation of a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Initially Reagan opposed the King holiday. Then, when pressure for it became overwhelming, he adopted a strategy of co-optation. When he signed the King holiday legislation, he asserted that “we can take pride in the knowledge that we Americans recognized a grave injustice and took action to correct it”—as if King’s aspirations had been attained. She notes a troublingly similar exaggerated sunniness in Barack Obama’s remarks, starting with his campaign for the presidency in 2007, when he declared at the historic Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama, that the movement generation “took us 90 percent of the way there”—a perceived propinquity to the racial promised land that Theoharis rightly finds preposterous.

Randall Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein professor of law at Harvard Law School.

Full story … 

Related:

Series | 1968 Reduxed and Revisited: Look How Far We’ve Come (That Was Sarcasm) — Part 5 of 5, John Fisher <>, Medium
https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*UYUi-OR4I1cKjQyXwZi4hw.jpeg The Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, on the day of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Photo: Joseph Louw

  • The Series: As the country approaches the 50th anniversary of one of the most controversial, volatile, and important years in our country’s history, We the People of the United States of America find ourselves facing many of the same issues that led us to the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel, the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War, screams of “the whole world is watching” at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the floor of the Ambassador Hotel, and Black fists being raised in the air at the Mexico Summer Olympics. So much has changed, true. We’ve come so far, but in a lot of ways, we’re right back where we started and even further behind.
  • Part 5: Death Is Necessary: The Civil Rights Movement and the Provocation Of Violence


http://evergreenedigest.org/sites/default/files/Attention%20banner.jpg


Help grow the movement! Share this story with your friends.