Civil rights and the idea of freedom


Civil rights and the idea of freedom

Richard H. King

Oxford University Press, 1992

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Includes bibliographical references and index



Focusing attention on the political ideas that were influential on as well as those that were central to the civil rights movement, this original study examines not only written texts but also oral history interviews to reveal a rich tradition of personal as well as political freedom that emerged from the movement. Making extensive use of interviews with movement participants to discover the language of freedom at the grass-roots level, King makes clear that, though liberal notions of freedom involving the absence of restrictions and equal protections were crucial to movement goals, the Exodus vision of collective liberation, group self-transformation, and participatory freedom figured just as prominently as the removal of barriers to social and political equality. King demonstrates how the creation of a sense of self-worth and freedom within the individual participants of the greater civil rights movement helped revitalize and extend African-American political culture. Along the way, notable individuals (such as Martin Luther King and Ella Baker, Stokely Carmichael and James Forman) and political thinkers (such as Hannah Arendt and Frantz Fanon) are discussed and analyzed. A significant contribution to an understanding of the basic ideas and issues of one of the most transformative movements of our time, Civil Rights and the Idea of Freedom concludes that the civil rights movement helped strengthen the meaning of citizenship and the political importance of self-respect in the contemporary world, with implications reaching far beyond its original setting and time period.

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