The system of legalized segregation was brutal and a gross violation of human rights, and its evisceration in the years between the end of WWII and the end of the 1960s was monumental. It is important to keep in mind that even though the system was riddled with contradictions, it would not crumble under its own weight. The post-war freedom struggle coalesced around the attainment of democratic rights and equal citizenship, achievement of which is inscribed in major pieces of legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The broad agreement on these goals, however, masked sharp differences within the civil rights movement not only over strategy and tactics but over fundamental goals.
The post-World War II African American freedom struggle fundamentally reshaped southern and national society and politics. But the demolition of Jim Crow, which roughly coincided with the emergence of a neo-liberal order in the U.S., left undecided a host of questions about the type and quality of society that should replace Jim Crow segregation. This lecture delves into the debates about goals, strategy, and tactics that animated movement activists and leaders as they fought to tear down an edifice and build a world on its rubble.