Annual Meeting Preview: “Community and Coalition in the Long Civil Rights Movement”

This session takes place on Friday, April 5, at the 2019 OAH Annual Meeting in Philadelphia and is solicited by the OAH Committee on Community Colleges

Chair: Amelia Serafine, San Antonio College
• Marianne M. Bueno, San Antonio College
• Nathan Caplin, Snow College
• David Graham, Snow College
• Meredith May, Kilgore College

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This panel illuminates the robust scholarship of historians at community colleges by bringing together three panelists who are working on civil rights history as they teach at two-year institutions. One of the goals of this session is to build and reinforce scholarly networks at non-four-year institutions, and to reaffirm their role in the larger academe. In doing so, the Committee on Community Colleges chose to organize a panel on the long civil rights movement. The themes of memory, memorialization, and coalition-building in civil rights movements are vital in 2018, and this session shows that community college scholars are part of this urgent work. Part of the work of studying movement history, our session argues, is destabilizing a black/white racial paradigm that is often used to understand civil rights efforts in the U.S., and stretching the periodization of the civil rights movement. To that end, our panelists explore understudied geographical regions like east Texas, look for the roots of Chicanx activism before the Chicano movement and its roots in the experience of World War II, and explore the role of memory in post-Civil War reunions of freedpeople.

Some of the scholarship these panelists build on includes Brian D. Behnken’s The Struggle in Black and Brown, Mary Frances Berry’s My Face is Black is True, and No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Cynthia Orozco. Bueno, Graham, and May extend this work in fresh ways. May is part of a growing scholarship on integration in East Texas, which she says has been neglected because it lacked a “Birmingham or Little Rock moment.” Studying East Texas also demands attention to coalition between African American and Chicanx communities in the civil rights struggle. While May moves the geography of integration east, Bueno stretches the periodization of the Chicano movement. Her work resituates the role of the “Mexican American Generation” in the Chicanx narrative, and rejects the interpretation of that generation as “accommodationist.” Instead, she argues that “the Mexican American Generation’s efforts to secure their civil rights reflect a strategic negotiation of identity and ideology.” Finally, Graham explores this panel’s themes of memory and memorialization of civil rights through the post-Civil War reunions of freedpeople. Graham works to connect scholarship on Civil War veteran reunions and memory with that of freedpeople.

Our session will include minimal comments from the chair to allow time for a lively conversation with the audience. We hope that attendees will be encouraged and rejuvenated in their own work on the long civil rights movement, and leave this panel attuned to locating and investigating under-researched aspects, including integration in rural areas and small towns, and the relationships between war and civil rights work and memory.

Amelia Serafine, San Antonio College

Posted: February 12, 2019
Tagged: Previews, Conference, Community College