cover image The Movement: The African American Struggle for Civil Rights

The Movement: The African American Struggle for Civil Rights

Thomas C. Holt. Oxford Univ, $18.95 (152p) ISBN 978-0-19-752579-1

Historian Holt (Children of Fire) counters popular representations of the civil rights movement as “the individual or collective acts of heroic and charismatic male leaders” in this concise and edifying account. Though well-known figures including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thurgood Marshall appear, Holt focuses on how “the accumulated grievances of ordinary citizens” became the driving force for a sustained social movement aimed at achieving “revolutionary change.” He relates how his maternal grandmother refused to leave the colored section of a Virginia bus in 1944 (the driver “decided to leave well enough alone,” Holt writes) and points out the “changes in material circumstances” that made such acts of resistance possible, including allowances for the families of Black men serving in WWII and the expansion of urban labor markets to satisfy wartime demand. Among the historical milestones, Holt highlights the pioneering of the “no-bail” tactic and the harnessing of music as a motivational tool during protests in Albany, Ga., from 1961 to 1962; battles over school and housing discrimination in Boston, Chicago, and New York City; and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. Even readers well-versed in the subject will learn from Holt’s close attention to lesser-known figures, events, and organizations. This well-informed history casts the civil rights struggle in a new light. (Jan.)