chapter
Further Reading
Pages 14

The civil rights movement is one of the most studied aspects of American history, and the sources that follow are hardly exhaustive. The earliest writings came from journalists and nonhistorian scholars, including attorneys, political scientists, and sociologists. Many activists have penned revealing, sometimes riveting, accounts of their harrowing experiences. When historians first turned their attention to the subject, they believed that the movement was a political reform best studied from the vantage point of public policy in Washington. They focused on national black leadership and organizations that pressed presidents, Congress, and federal judges to act. In the late 1970s, scholars redirected their attention to communities and regions such as Greensboro, Birmingham, and the Mississippi delta, where local activists organized on their own. Scholars have also incorporated the roles of women and organized labor, and analyzed the topics of education and religion. Collective biographies of several figures, such as black women, white women, and southern clergymen, have been particularly illuminating. More recent studies have stressed the Cold War in shaping America’s response to racism at home and its foreign policy in less developed countries. Most recently, scholars have suggested that national concern for civil rights began after World War I and continued into Richard Nixon’s administration. An excellent overview of civil rights historiography can be found in Charles Eagles, ‘Toward New Histories of the Civil Rights Era,’ Journal of Southern History 66 (November 2000), pp. 815-48.