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Ron Radosh

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer of 1964: 1000-plus white volunteers went South to Mississippi to help local African-American citizens register to vote, a right they had largely been prevented from executing since the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction. PBS recently aired a major documentary on the effort; the summer indeed is worthy of remembrance.

There is, however, one major myth about Freedom Summer that has stuck and which has been repeated many times. The myth comes from two quarters: the American left, and the proponents of black nationalism that emerged soon after the Freedom Summer, promulgated by the late Stokely Carmichael (who later changed his name to Kwame Ture), who first developed the rallying cry of “black power.”

This past Sunday, the New York Times allowed its op-ed pages to be taken over by one of these mythmakers: Professor Peniel E. Joseph, who leads a “Center for the Study of Race and Democracy” at Tufts University and who authored a recent biography of the black radical leader titled Stokely: A Life. According to Dr. Joseph, the fracturing of the civil rights movement after Freedom Summer took place because the white liberals in the movement eventually sold the blacks out by refusing to confront “racism on a national scale.”

They did this by supposedly hampering black activists from creating a non-segregated independent party that could gain recognition and replace the all-white Democratic Party Mississippi delegation at the coming Democratic National Convention. That group, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), was led by former sharecropper and local black activist Fannie Lou Hamer, who — in a dramatic TV appearance before the Democratic Convention’s Credentials Committee — told her own story of deprivation and suffering that black people like herself were experiencing in the deep South in that time.

As Joseph and others argue, white liberals — led by Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota — thwarted the MDFP’s demands, proposing a compromise that did not entail disqualifying the all-white Democratic Party delegation from Mississippi, and instead offering them only two at-large convention seats. The MDFP rejected this offer, despite it having been accepted by Martin Luther King, Jr., Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s counsel and civil rights activist Joe Rauh, civil rights leader and organizer of the March on Washington Bayard Rustin, and UAW chief Walter Reuther. The consequences, writes Joseph, were that black civil rights activists led by SNNC’s Stokely Carmichael soured on white liberals and turned against interracial political alliances.

In a short time, whites were pushed out of what had been the interracial SNNC. Instead, Carmichael and his followers adopted the position of creating a new black power movement that sought black freedom through all-black political parties, and by resorting to a strategy associated later with the Nation of Islam’s (NOA) New York City leader, Malcolm X, who called for obtaining freedom “by any means necessary.”

They rejected Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategy of adherence to both interracial coalitions and non-violence, and their action marked the start of a new black radicalism, epitomized by both the NOA and the all-black revolutionary group founded in San Francisco, the Black Panther Party (BPP) led by Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver.

That, to Professor Joseph, is “Freedom Summer’s most enduring legacy.” It is obvious that Professor Joseph believes that is a good thing.

Professor Joseph ignores the horrendous legacy of black radicalism, that of the birth of identification by the black leftists and black nationalists with the worst repressive Marxist and theocratic third-world regimes — Carmichael, for example, loved both Qaddafi’s Libya and Fidel Castro’s Cuba. He also ignores the thuggery and murderous activity of the BPP, and the anti-Americanism of Malcolm X that he persisted in holding even after he left the NOA and stopped viewing white people as “white devils.”

But it is Professor Joseph’s claim that white liberals sold out the blacks at the 1964 Democratic Convention held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is especially mistaken.

Top Rated Comments   
I believe you're total idiot.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
The once thriving and peaceful city of my childhood was forcefully desegregated in 1972. In 2002 the school district was 99% black as all whites had fled their generational homeland for a bigger city an hour away. A city that was once the second largest in the state is now the 32nd with only pity in its future. "Progress" had come full circle in 40 years - and a once wonderful city was one of its victims.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
The discipline of history is about recording past events and attempting to place them in the context of their time. Unfortunately, people with political agendas see history as the reinventing of the past to create narratives that advance particular interests. Attributing the fracturing of the civil rights movement and the rise of separatism to the two seat compromise offered by Johnson at the 1964 Democratic convention is an example of such a rewriting of history. While it is true that many civil rights supporters became radicalized by the failure of the liberal establishment to support the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's challenge, it does not explain the conversion of integrated civil rights organizations into essentially blacks only organizations.

In December 1965, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) voted to expel whites from the organization. The vote was far from unanimous but it it set a new pattern for how blacks going forward would organize to advance their interests. And it had a profound impact on how race would be viewed in the future so it is important to try to understand why this happened.

The first reason was the stunning success of the civil rights movement. In a relatively short period of time the entire structure of legal segregation was dismantled, a remarkable achievement. The participation of whites in the movement was extremely helpful and in part explains how quickly the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties ended the Jim Crow south. With the passage of the civil rights bills, white participation was no longer seen as necessary.

The civil rights movement was not basically about blacks. It was about living up to the promise of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution that provided that all were created equal. The struggle to implement the founding ideals was in the interest of all Americans and so it was natural that whites as well as blacks were a part of that effort.

The problems facing black Americans after 1965 were quite different. Poverty and a lack of education presented challenges that could not be met by simply changing the law. The role for whites in solving these problems was a lot less clear. And as money began to pour into efforts to alleviate poverty and improve education, jobs were created as part of the effort.

Like any movement, the civil rights movement became a place where people made a living. With the necessity of cooperation between whites and blacks fading in importance, the reality of competition for the means of making a living increased in importance. Initially this affected the civil rights organizations themselves but soon expanded to include government employment of teachers, police, fire fighters, and into higher education and corporate America.

Segregation in America was not simply in the south. In a very real sense, America was two separate societies. There were parallel institutions for professionals such as doctors and lawyers, for colleges and universities, and even separate structures for sports. There was a black media with its own magazines and newspapers and blacks and whites largely prayed in separate houses of worship. With the demise of segregation, the separate world of blacks began to crumble. While this provided tremendous opportunities for blacks, it also created risks. Suddenly, blacks were competing directly with whites and for many blacks this was a source of insecurity

Starting in the late 1960s, colleges and universities began to make serious efforts to recruit black students. The more political of these students formed black student organizations that no longer included whites. And many black students tended to sit with other black students at meals and self-segregated, a pattern that to some extent still exists on college campuses.

Another area where tensions arose between blacks and whites was over white teachers in black schools. Arguments arose over whether blacks in predominantly black schools should have black teachers. Similar arguments came up over police and fire fighters. There were many facets of these arguments but these disputes were also over competition for jobs.

While the two seat compromise may have caused a rift between liberals and radicals, it had little to do with the evolution of how race is perceived in America. However, there are lessons from the dispute between the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and the Johnson administration, that Republicans could learn from. The disputes between the Tea Party and the establishment has some important similarities. The people in the MFDP were mostly the rural poor who had been excluded from politics for their entire lives. Their world was completely separate from the politics of Washington DC. For Johnson and his allies, evicting the whites only Democrats from the convention would mean the southern states would turn Republican for generations and make it very difficult to implement a liberal age
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (24)
All Comments   (24)
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My comment got attenuated. the point I wanted to make is that for the members of the MDFP, their what they perceived was that they had been deprived of the right to vote by the whites only Mississippi Democrats and the political concerns of the Johnson administration were secondary. Their reality was worlds apart from that. of national politics.

In a similar vein, the senate Republicans are concerned that if they don't regain control of the senate, they will not be able to repeal the ACA, reduce spending, or reform entitlements and have no ability to prevent the senate from confirming radical cabinet Members and federal judges. For the conservative base of the Republican Party, the main concern is that they feel overburdened by regulations taxes and they don't see Washington politicians doing anything about it. Their reality is very different from the world of the senate Republicans. Unfortunately, if the establishment Republicans cannot bridge their differences with the conservative base, the only winners will be the left wing of the Democratic Party.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
my best friend's mother-in-law makes $83 hourly on the computer . She has been laid off for six months but last month her payment was $16801 just working on the computer for a few hours.
learn the facts here now
➊ ➨➨ ➋ ➨➨ ➌ ➨➨ WWW.FOX87.COM
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
So what, Ron? Go study some more chicken entrails. Irrelevant.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
As Churchill once said of Ghandi, "He was lucky in his choice of enemies."
No African Country would let anyone give a speech calling for violent overthrow of their government. They would be rounded up and killed.
Even in most civilized countries, there would be arrests and questioning, and law enforcement would keep a keen eye on them, perhaps imprison them or deport them.
But we elect Ostupid President, instead.
Idiots.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
So...if blacks felt they were betrayed by the Democratic Party in the 60s, why did they continue to vote Democrat?

Apparently, the Democrats didn't betray blacks that much.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cash (pork) heals a multitude of wounds.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
" it should be noted that today Mississippi now has more black representatives than any state in America." And this is a good thing? Black/white is meaningless. Brains/morals/fortitude/vision is meaningful.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Does Joseph address Carmicheal's statement that "the only position of women in the SNCC is prone"?
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
The once thriving and peaceful city of my childhood was forcefully desegregated in 1972. In 2002 the school district was 99% black as all whites had fled their generational homeland for a bigger city an hour away. A city that was once the second largest in the state is now the 32nd with only pity in its future. "Progress" had come full circle in 40 years - and a once wonderful city was one of its victims.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
That fact has to prove something. Unfortunately it is not a sign of a superior intelligence.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Do you mean, "What if they really are just that stupid and criminal?"
Me, too.
But, how dare we say that?
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
The discipline of history is about recording past events and attempting to place them in the context of their time. Unfortunately, people with political agendas see history as the reinventing of the past to create narratives that advance particular interests. Attributing the fracturing of the civil rights movement and the rise of separatism to the two seat compromise offered by Johnson at the 1964 Democratic convention is an example of such a rewriting of history. While it is true that many civil rights supporters became radicalized by the failure of the liberal establishment to support the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's challenge, it does not explain the conversion of integrated civil rights organizations into essentially blacks only organizations.

In December 1965, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) voted to expel whites from the organization. The vote was far from unanimous but it it set a new pattern for how blacks going forward would organize to advance their interests. And it had a profound impact on how race would be viewed in the future so it is important to try to understand why this happened.

The first reason was the stunning success of the civil rights movement. In a relatively short period of time the entire structure of legal segregation was dismantled, a remarkable achievement. The participation of whites in the movement was extremely helpful and in part explains how quickly the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties ended the Jim Crow south. With the passage of the civil rights bills, white participation was no longer seen as necessary.

The civil rights movement was not basically about blacks. It was about living up to the promise of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution that provided that all were created equal. The struggle to implement the founding ideals was in the interest of all Americans and so it was natural that whites as well as blacks were a part of that effort.

The problems facing black Americans after 1965 were quite different. Poverty and a lack of education presented challenges that could not be met by simply changing the law. The role for whites in solving these problems was a lot less clear. And as money began to pour into efforts to alleviate poverty and improve education, jobs were created as part of the effort.

Like any movement, the civil rights movement became a place where people made a living. With the necessity of cooperation between whites and blacks fading in importance, the reality of competition for the means of making a living increased in importance. Initially this affected the civil rights organizations themselves but soon expanded to include government employment of teachers, police, fire fighters, and into higher education and corporate America.

Segregation in America was not simply in the south. In a very real sense, America was two separate societies. There were parallel institutions for professionals such as doctors and lawyers, for colleges and universities, and even separate structures for sports. There was a black media with its own magazines and newspapers and blacks and whites largely prayed in separate houses of worship. With the demise of segregation, the separate world of blacks began to crumble. While this provided tremendous opportunities for blacks, it also created risks. Suddenly, blacks were competing directly with whites and for many blacks this was a source of insecurity

Starting in the late 1960s, colleges and universities began to make serious efforts to recruit black students. The more political of these students formed black student organizations that no longer included whites. And many black students tended to sit with other black students at meals and self-segregated, a pattern that to some extent still exists on college campuses.

Another area where tensions arose between blacks and whites was over white teachers in black schools. Arguments arose over whether blacks in predominantly black schools should have black teachers. Similar arguments came up over police and fire fighters. There were many facets of these arguments but these disputes were also over competition for jobs.

While the two seat compromise may have caused a rift between liberals and radicals, it had little to do with the evolution of how race is perceived in America. However, there are lessons from the dispute between the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and the Johnson administration, that Republicans could learn from. The disputes between the Tea Party and the establishment has some important similarities. The people in the MFDP were mostly the rural poor who had been excluded from politics for their entire lives. Their world was completely separate from the politics of Washington DC. For Johnson and his allies, evicting the whites only Democrats from the convention would mean the southern states would turn Republican for generations and make it very difficult to implement a liberal age
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for a truly excellent and insightful comment
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
Victor Davis Hanson is an anti-Catholic bigot but I can still read him and appreciate his commentary. I believe Mr. Radosh is in the same camp as Hanson.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
I believe you're total idiot.
4 weeks ago
4 weeks ago Link To Comment
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