Civil Rights movement

A More Beautiful and Terrible History

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“Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama’s running so we all can fly.” Rap mogul Jay Z’s words reflected not just the “Yes we can!” optimism of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, but also the orthodox view of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM).

Most commentaries present us with a series of episodes which are celebrated as part of the glorious history of the United States.

Martin Luther King

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Fifty years ago on 4 April 1968, Atlanta-born King was murdered. To commemorate this massive loss to anti-racists and revolutionaries Yuri Prasad correctly argues that it is essential to rescue King from the hagiographers.

Even Donald Trump cites King as an inspiration, but the new generation of activists who stand on King’s shoulders in the many fights for justice and equality today, including Black Lives Matter, face the same brutal police violence that protestors did in the 1960s.

Memphis 68

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From resistance to the American war in Vietnam to the instantly recognisable image of Tommy Smith and John Carlos holding high their clenched fists on the Olympic podium, 1968 was a year of uprisings and resistance.

But it was also a year of tragedy, of the assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis, and the fall out from the death of Stax star Otis Redding at the end of 1967. Stuart Cosgrove’s Memphis 68 is the second in a trilogy looking at soul music in one of the most inspiring decades of US history and a bittersweet tribute to the city.

Malcolm X: The road to revolution

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This month marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of Malcolm X. Antony Hamilton looks at his life and politics.

Malcolm X is one of the great icons of the Black Power movement. He inspired a generation to resist racism “by any means necessary”. His life was a battle of ideas in which he responded to institutional racism and segregation with tactics that evolved alongside the struggle for civil rights. Speaking in January 1965, a month before his murder, Malcolm X warned of impending social upheaval and global revolution:

Call for global resistance

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Saladin Ambar, author of Malcolm X at the Oxford Union, spoke to Socialist Review about Malcolm's historic 1964 speech, and why his ideas will remain relevant as long as oppression persists.

I was looking at Malcolm X speeches for my students and I came across the Oxford speech. The more I looked at it the more I thought this was not just a speech; it was a moment. There was this “Oxford moment” both in Malcolm’s life and in the political life of the UK with the 1964 election and a changing dynamic in terms of colonialism, and in the US, with race relations starting to go in a different direction.

Life out of the shadows

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Bayard Rustin was a key strategist in the US civil rights movement and the main organiser of the March on Washington. He was also gay and a communist. Josh Hollands celebrates his life and achievements.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for jobs and civil rights. Until recently it seemed as though one of its most important organisers would remain largely forgotten.

Bayard Rustin was a key strategist of the civil rights movement, as well as an adviser and mentor to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Historians have noted that it was Rustin who guided King to mass non-violent action to challenge the racist Jim Crow system.

The many lives of Malcolm X

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Manning Marable, an academic and activist, died in April this year, just three days before the release of his biography of Malcolm X, the great icon of the Black Power Movement.Brian Richardson looks at this landmark book and the extraordinary life of Malcolm X

Malcolm X is unquestionably the great icon of the Black Power Movement. His emergence in the mid-1960s sparked one of the most exciting and dramatic episodes in the history of black struggle in the United States. There had been a rising tide of anti-racist struggle from the mid-1950s onwards. The Civil Rights Movement led by Dr Martin Luther King Jr succeeded both in desegregating many municipal and private facilities across the Southern states and forcing the US federal government into passing civil and voting rights legislation in 1964 and 1965.

Striking a note of resistance

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Earlier this summer I found myself walking around the Pilsen district of Chicago. Migrant Mexican workers settled in the neighbourhood in the 1960s.

There you can see hundreds of murals and mosaics. These works of street art depict the daily life of the migrant Mexican community and their struggle for civil rights. Many of these works are clearly influenced by the Mexican muralists of the 1910 Revolution - Diego Rivera and José Orozco.

A Long Way from Home

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Richard Bradbury recalls the life and work of the black poet Claude McKay.

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?


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