Between civil rights and black power in the gateway city: The action committee to improve opportunities for Negroes (action), 1964-75

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Abstract

This article discusses the origins and development of the Action Committee to Improve Opportunities for Negroes (ACTION), a protest organization based in St. Louis, Missouri. Active during the 1960s and 1970s, the group used militant, nonviolent direct action to fight for more and better black employment at the city's major firms. Exploring ACTION'S evolution contributes to a revisionist narrative of the Civil Rights' struggle that foregrounds local working-class African Americans. A study of ACTION also challenges depictions of a Civil Rights agenda focused on public accommodations and the vote, and highlights the demand for economic opportunity that anchored the movement. Further, this work augments new historical interpretations framing Civil Rights and "Black Power" as cohesive political projects. Yet, this paper suggests that scholars should not commit the error of collapsing Civil Rights and Black Power as historical constructs; removing the distinguishing traits between the two effectively removes the African American experience from the fluid patterns of continuity and change that ground historical inquiry. Using ACTION as an illustration, this paper contends that Civil Rights and Black Power were neither dichotomous nor seamless, but rather discernible phases in an ongoing Black Freedom Movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)725-754
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Social History
Volume37
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

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